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COVID-19: Alberta's Restrictions on Businesses and Mass Gatherings


By McLennan Ross Corporate & Tax Team

On Friday, March 27, 2020 the Provincial Government of Alberta (the “Provincial Government”) announced new restrictions on businesses and group gatherings in an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19. In short, the Provincial Government is reducing maximum gatherings from 50 to 15 people and closing all non-essential businesses. These new restrictions are as follows:

Mandatory Mass Gathering Restrictions

Moving forward, gatherings will be limited to 15 people. This includes gatherings such as:

  • Family events, such as weddings and funerals;
  • Worship gatherings;
  • Conferences;
  • Workshops; and
  • Outdoor social gatherings.

However, it should be noted that these gatherings of 15 people or fewer should be cancelled if the event:

  • includes attendees from high risk demographic groups, such as people 60 years of age or older ad individuals with chronic medical conditions;
  • includes attendees that have recently been travelling outside of Canada;
  • is attended by a majority of critical infrastructure or critical service members, such as healthcare workers, first responders, electric/power workers and telecommunication workers;
  • has attendees participating in activities that promote disease transmission, such as singing, close contract, or sharing food or beverages; and
  • is held in a location that does not permit social distancing (at least 6 feet between attendees).

Business Restrictions

As of Friday, March 27, 2020, the Provincial Government is restricting Albertans from accessing non-essential businesses. These restrictions will apply to:

  • Close contact businesses: such as hair salons and barbershops; tattoo and piecing studios; aesthetic services; as well as wellness studios, clinics and non-emergency and non-critical health services provided by regulated health professions or registered professionals including dentistry, physiotherapy, massage, podiatry, chiropractic and optometry services.
  • Non-essential retail services that fall into the categories of clothing, computer and gaming stores, and services in shopping malls such as hobby and toys, gift and specialty items, and furniture.
    • These types of businesses are still able to operate by offering online orders through delivery or by curb-side pickups.
  • Dine-in restaurants.
    • Dine-in restaurants will no longer be able to offer dine-in services. However, take-out and delivery services will continue to be available.
  • Recreation and entertainment centres, including all gyms, swimming pools and arenas, science centres, museums and art galleries, libraries, community centres, children’s play centres and bowling alleys, casinos, racing entertainment centres, and bingo halls.

These new restrictions will not apply to essential services such as:

  • Grocery stores;
  • Shopping centers (access is prohibited to retail stores mentioned above);
  • Health care facilities;
  • Airports;
  • The Legislature; and
  • Other essential services.

It should be noted that business and workplaces unaffected by these restrictions are not subject to the mass gathering restrictions and therefore may continue to have more than 15 workers on a work site, but must follow all public health guidelines, including the social distancing measures and risk mitigation strategies set out by the Provincial Government.

Strict adherence to these restrictions is advised as violations are now subject to a fine.

A full list of Alberta’s public health orders, risk mitigation strategies, and affected business and services can be found here.

We strongly encourage individuals and businesses to pursue all possible assistance packages being provided by Municipal, Provincial and Federal Governments, your financial institutions and your service providers, all of whom are actively involved in assisting businesses thought these challenges. For example, the Federal Government on Friday, March 27, 2020 also announced new COVID-19 measures which includes a 75 per cent wage subsidy and guaranteed interest free loans. Please keep an eye out for a subsequent post detailing these new Federal programs.

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