‘Too soon and too fast:’ Mayor Sohi urging province to keep COVID-19 measures in place

Sohi said he has asked city staff to look at its authority to craft its own measures, including possible continuation of the vaccination passport program in the city

Publishing date:

Feb 03, 2022  •  12 hours ago  •  3 minute read  •  65 Comments

Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi.
Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi. Postmedia, file

Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi is urging the province not to remove COVID-19 restrictions “too soon and too fast” after the Alberta government said it hopes to start lifting measures this month.

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Speaking to reporters Thursday afternoon, Sohi said he wants the public health measures to remain in place for a while longer to ensure the health and safety of residents and protect those under age five who still can’t be vaccinated.

“We all have a collective responsibility to do what we can to keep everyone safe and I ask that the provincial government keep this top of mind as they reconsider COVID-19 restrictions. These restrictions need to be in place for a little bit longer,” Sohi said. “The COVID-19 virus is showing that it is not finished with us yet with the rising spread of the Omicron variant throughout the province. We must do everything we can to ensure this is the last major wave of the virus and loosening restrictions may set us back.”

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On Tuesday, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said the province may be able to start reducing restrictions this month if there is a sustained decline in hospitalizations. Kenney said one of the first to go would be the restrictions exemption program that requires proof of vaccination to enter certain venues such as entertainment facilities and restaurants.

Sohi said he has asked city staff to look at its authority to craft its own measures, including possible continuation of the vaccination passport program in Edmonton. As a corporation, the city could look to implement a plan requiring proof of vaccination in its own facilities, such as recreation centres. However, it’s unclear if Alberta’s QR code scanner technology would still be available if the restriction was removed at the provincial level.

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“I certainly hope that we don’t have to implement our own measures, but we will explore options that are within our authority if we have to,” he said. “The safety of Edmontonians is our priority.”

Edmonton’s mask bylaw would still remain in effect if the provincial rule were to be removed because there are specific thresholds in place that would mandate a review of the rule. One of them is the repeal of the province’s mask order and the other is when the city’s active case rate is below 100 per 100,000 for 28 consecutive days. The active case rate in the city is currently at 776 per 100,000.

Meanwhile, businesses are eager to hear what changes could be coming and how they may be affected. Kris Harvey, co-chairman of the Edmonton Independent Hospitality Community, said he’s concerned lifting the restrictions now could be too early and lead to the need for further restrictions in the future. He pointed to last summer’s reopening that was followed by a significant fourth wave of the virus across the province.

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“Until we do something that works, we’re going to be caught in this endless loop and ultimately the hospitality sector are the ones that suffer,” Harvey said, noting restaurants and entertainment venues have been impacted by restrictions in each wave of the virus through capacity and curfew measures. “I don’t want to see the restrictions exemption program go away.”

There is no scheduled date for when city officials will report back to council on restriction options, but the city said there is expected to be a COVID-19 update to council before the end of the month. In a statement responding to the mayor’s request, city manager Andre Corbould said any proposed measures can only be finalized once the details are received about any changes at the provincial level.

duscook@postmedia.com

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