Patios reopen, gatherings grow as Alberta advances further into Stage 1 of reopening plan

The latest round of restrictions will be relaxed as part of Alberta's "Open For Summer" plan to ease public health measures brought in to control the spread of COVID-19.

As of Tuesday, Stage 1 of the plan is in effect allowing for patio dining, personal services by appointment and additional organized gatherings.

Restaurant patios are now permitted to reopen with dining parties of up to four people per table, direct households or two close contacts for those living alone.

Outdoor social gatherings and physical activities may take place with a cap of 10 people.

Funerals may have 20 people, while weddings may have 10.  Receptions and indoor gatherings are still not allowed under Stage 1.

The move to Stage 1 occurred as the province reached the benchmarks of having the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in more than 50 per cent of the eligible population and hospitalization numbers below 800.

The threshold for Stage 2 requires 60 per cent of those aged 12 and up receiving their shot and fewer than 500 people in hospital. Alberta has already met these targets and, with a mandated two-week interval between stage progression, the province could potentially advance to the next stage as early as June 10.

Stage 2 would allow for the return of sports activities for all age groups without restrictions, indoor seating at eateries and increased gathering size numbers.

The province has set a target for moving to Stage 3 by late June or early July that would lift nearly all pandemic-related restrictions.

THE LAST SHUTDOWN?

Gym owner Eric Barber is optimistic that this shutdown was the last.

“I think that this might be a turning point, but I’ve been fooled before,” said Barber, who owns Barracks Fitness.

Barber said the shutdowns have been gruelling, but added that 2021 is shaping up to be a year of opportunity, especially in Stage 2 where gyms can resume indoor fitness activities.

“We’re just going to try to recover,” he said.

“We were hit pretty hard, I think we’re set up pretty nicely to have people back indoors to give people peace of mind.”

The earliest Stage 2 could take place is June 10th.

At Distilled Beauty Bar and Social House in Marda Loop, co-owner Lachlan Muir said stage one is twofold for him as it offers personal services as well as patio dining.

“This is how our business succeeds, is (by) being open,” he said. 

He said the customer base is very loyal and typically dip both feet into manicures and a coffee.

“Not to just go to work, but to actually socialize and have people that want to be here and see us again,” he said.

Client Izabella Olechno said she waited seven weeks to get a manicure and said it's okay to spoil yourself.

“Going for coffee, going to a restaurant is one thing but doing something for yourself just to make your image, self conscious feel so much better,” she said.

'TIME TO OPEN UP ALBERTA'

The premier said this summer will be one without restrictions if hospitalization and vaccine numbers are met.

“It’s time to open up Alberta,” said Jason Kenney.

“I’m confident Albertans will clear these last hurdles and push towards a wide open summer."