National Post (National Edition)

Provinces start to ease restrictio­ns

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Relaxed COVID-19 restrictio­ns went into effect Monday in Quebec, Alberta, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

In Quebec, non-essential stores, personal-care salons and museums reopened across the province, while in six, less populated regions, gyms and in-person restaurant dining also reopened.

Alberta restaurant­s reopened for in-person dining, and one-on-one training at gyms were allowed to resume.

In New Brunswick, COVID-19 restrictio­ns eased in two regions where case numbers have been high.

The Edmundston region came out of lockdown to enter the red level of the province's COVID-19 response plan at midnight, while the Moncton region dropped from red to orange.

There were two new cases of COVID-19 in New Brunswick Monday — the smallest daily increase since New Year's Day.

There are 182 active cases in the province.

In Nova Scotia, relaxed restrictio­ns on organized gatherings went into effect Monday, allowing retail businesses and fitness facilities to operate at 75 per cent capacity, up from the previous limit of 50 per cent.

The province had eight active cases of COVID-19 as of Sunday and one new one on Monday.

In Saskatchew­an, Premier Scott Moe was under pressure to tighten restrictio­ns.

The province has one of the highest rates of active cases per capita in the country, with a seven-day average of 223 new cases each day and a population of just over one million people.

Only bingo halls and casinos have been closed since the daily case numbers began rising last fall.

“It's easy for some to stand up and say, `We need to lock everything down,' when they have the opportunit­y to work from home,” Moe told delegates in an online speech.

“The fact of the matter is, is thousands of people in Saskatchew­an do not have that opportunit­y.”

Moe said many employees working for businesses that remain open to customers can't do their jobs elsewhere and his goal is to keep as many people working as possible through the pandemic.

Sports teams aren't allowed to play games and households can't have guests over, but businesses are allowed to have customers at reduced capacity and with other restrictio­ns in place.

Health officials say the province's COVID-19 caseload is slowly dropping, but at a pace that's still adding pressure to hospitals and intensive-care units.

“The reality is this: No matter how severe lockdowns and public health measures are, they are not going to end this pandemic,” Moe said.

It will only end once there is widespread access to vaccines, he said.

To date, the province has administer­ed nearly 43,000 doses to critical health-care workers and seniors living in long-term care and smaller communitie­s.

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