AB Government: Weekly overview of COVID-19 response
The Government of Alberta has spent almost $10 billion on a comprehensive response to protect the safety, security and economic interests of Albertans amidst the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.
A number of actions have been taken over the past week to contain the outbreak and provide Albertans with the services they need.
Provincial response to COVID-19 outbreak, March 29 – April 4:
Health and emergency management
- Alberta Health Services (AHS) partnership with Spartan Bioscience to provide rapid COVID-19 testing for Alberta (March 30).
- Bill 10, Public Health (Emergency Powers) Amendment Act, 2020, provides law enforcement agencies full authority to enforce public health orders during a pandemic (came into force April 2).
- Expanded eligibility for select licensed child care centres to improve access for essential workers (April 1).
- Sharing resources between provincial and federal meat inspectors to increase food inspector capacity and ensure a consistent supply of safe food products (April 1).
- New orders on controlling outbreaks in facilities such as group and nursing homes to ensure public health authorities are informed and operators are well-trained and deployed where they are needed most (April 2).
- New funding for non-profit organizations to provide additional food assistance for vulnerable K-12 students and families totalling $3 million (April 2).
- More than 1,100 offers of support in the form of vital resources and supplies received from private and non-profit organizations through the government’s Bits and Pieces program.
- Investment of $1.5 billion in the Keystone XL (KXL) pipeline to accelerate construction, create jobs for Albertans and ensure it is operational by 2023 (March 31).
- Introduction of Bill 11, Tenancies Statues (Emergency Provisions) Amendment Act, 2020, which will ensure no one can be retroactively charged for residential rent increase or late fees while the state of public health emergency is in effect, if passed (March 31).
- Introduction of Bill 12, Liabilities Management Statutes Amendment Act, 2020, which will provide greater authority for the Orphan Well Association to fast-track well and site cleanup work and boost employment in the oil services sector, if passed (March 31).
- Suspension of hospital parking fees for health-care workers and the general public to make worksite transitions easier for health-care professionals and reduce the risk of COVID-19 spread from touch screens and buttons at payment sites (April 2).
- Deferral of timber dues for six months to help ensure forestry companies can continue operations and retain staff during the pandemic (April 4).
Provincial response prior to March 29:
Health and emergency management
- Collaboration with health partners since January to ensure proven processes and well-trained teams were in place to both protect the public and respond to infections before any COVID-19 cases were present in Alberta.
- Online resources such as alberta.ca/COVID19 and the Alberta Health Services COVID-19 online self-assessment tool.
- Series of aggressive public health measures to limit the spread of the virus, including restrictions on mass gatherings, prohibiting attendance and limiting visitation at many facilities and restricting capacity at restaurants and other food-service locations (began March 12).
- Additional $500 million for Budget 2020 to ensure Alberta’s public health officials have the resources they need to deal with the pandemic (March 15).
- New billing code for pharmacists working to help Albertans assess and screen for COVID-19 (March 19).
- Institution of a state of public health emergency under the Public Health Act to empower authorities to respond to the pandemic (March 17).
- Access to health-care information and support from anywhere in the province by smartphone through the Babylon app by TELUS Health (March 19).
- Amendments to the Emergency Management Act to allow local and provincial states of emergency to exist at the same time, helping communities and the province respond effectively to emergencies (March 20).
- Increased availability of childcare spaces for workers providing core services during COVID-19 (March 22).
- Update Albertans on potential fraudulent activities such as identity theft currently taking place and how to appropriately respond (March 22).
- Set up the Alberta Emergency Management Agency Unsolicited Offers Program in response to growing offers of generosity from Alberta individuals and organizations (March 22).
- New approach to COVID-19 testing that prioritizes groups at the highest risk of local exposure and at-risk populations (March 23).
- New temporary virtual care billing codes for physicians to allow Albertans to receive medical advice while maintaining a safe social distance (March 23).
- Collaboration with municipalities to ensure homeless shelters across the province can create more capacity to meet local needs (March 23).
- Law enforcement agencies granted full authority to enforce public health orders and issue fines to ensure self-isolation orders are being followed (March 25).
- Collaboration with food supply industry to ensure Albertans continue to have access to safe, affordable food as the COVID-19 response continues (March 26).
- Automobile access to provincial parks, parking lots and staging areas on public land is restricted to align with measures in place at national parks to prevent the spread of the virus. Facilities such as washrooms are also closed (March 27).
- Additional restrictions and prohibitions on gatherings and attendance at non-essential businesses and organizations to safeguard employees and the public (March 27).
- A 90-day extension for most drivers requiring a medical evaluation to apply for a licence renewal, reducing strain on the health-care system. (March 27).
- Indigenous Relations working with federal and Indigenous governments to ensure all Albertans benefit from pandemic planning and response (March 28).
- $60 million to help social services organizations respond to critical front-line services (March 17).
- Series of energy sector initiatives for Alberta’s energy sector:
- funding the industry levy of the Alberta Energy Regulator for a period of six months, achieving $113 million in industry relief
- granting extensions for oil and gas tenures
- $100-million loan to the Orphan Well Association (March 20)
- Established the Economic Recovery Council to provide advice through the downturn that comes as a result of COVID-19 and the energy price crash (March 20).
- Lower copayments for prescriptions for Alberta government-sponsored coverage for seniors and non-group coverage to assist with added associated costs.
- To bridge the gap until federal benefits are available, government is providing a one-time payment for working Albertans who have significantly lost income and must self-isolate (March 18).
- Six-month, interest-free moratorium on student loan payments for all individuals who are in the process of repaying these loans (March 18).
- 90-day utility payment deferral for residential, farm and small commercial customers who are expecting financial hardship as a direct result of COVID-19 (March 18).
- ATB Financial deferral for up to six months on loans, lines of credit, and mortgages for personal and small business customers impacted by COVID-19 (March 18).
- Programs for individual and business Alberta credit union members to ease difficulties with loan payments and short-term cash flow (March 18).
- Deferred collection of corporate income tax balances and instalment payments for Alberta businesses (March 18).
- Employment Standards Code changes to provide job protection for Albertans who need to self-isolate (March 13).
- Licensed restaurants and bars can sell liquor without selling food as part of their take-out – with the exception of drive-thru windows – and delivery services to help keep businesses open, staff employed and additional options for Albertans self-isolating (March 17).
- Upcoming expiry dates for Alberta drivers’ licences, identification cards, vehicle registrations, other permits and certificates extended until May 15 (March 17).
- New measures to protect renters from eviction, rent increases and late fees to relieve the immediate financial burdens brought on by the COVID-19 crisis (March 27).
- Protection for Albertans and Alberta employers through an education property tax freeze and deferral, and Workers’ Compensation Board premium deferrals (March 23).
- Indigenous community consultations are paused at the community’s request for as long as recommendations for self-isolation remain in place. (March 26).
- Delays in requirements for hotels and other lodging providers to pay the tourism levy until Aug. 31 to free up cash flow for employers to maintain staff and operations (March 27).
- Temporary adjustment to K-12 education funding to reflect the cost of at-home learning by students during the pandemic (March 28).
- The most important measures that Albertans can take to prevent respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19, is to practise good hygiene.
- This includes cleaning your hands regularly for at least 20 seconds, avoiding touching your face, coughing or sneezing into your elbow or sleeve, disposing of tissues appropriately.
- Anyone who has health concerns or is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 should complete an online COVID-19 self-assessment.
- For recommendations on protecting yourself and your community, visit alberta.ca/COVID19.
Communications Director, Communications and Public Engagement