Recent calls from three of Alberta’s most prominent unions for the province to implement circuit-breaker measures to limit the spread of COVID-19 have many business owners on edge.
In an open letter, the United Nurses of Alberta, the Alberta Union of Public Employees and the Alberta Teachers’ Union came together to call on the provincial government to shut down restaurants, bars, gyms and other businesses.
Combined, those three unions represent nearly 350,000 workers in Alberta, and union leaders say “the pandemic in Alberta is out of control.”
The province has since responded, saying it is not considering those types of measures.
A statement from Premier Jason Kenney’s press secretary said the government will continue to “follow the science and the advice from our public health officials.”
“A circuit-breaker is not on the table and not being considered,” said Justin Brattinga.
Still, calls for dramatic public health measures and business closures have the business community on edge.
“Many businesses say if there is another closure, if the restrictions are really onerous, and if they close, they will likely not reopen,” said Deborah Yedlin, president and CEO of the Calgary Chamber of Commerce.
“We know that less than 30 per cent of businesses have returned back to pre-pandemic revenues, and that’s obviously something that we should be concerned about; also, 20 per cent are considering filing for bankruptcy.”
Instead, Yedlin said the province needs to be focused on using other tools such as vaccine mandates for workers, increased testing capabilities, and access to contact tracing.
She added that many business owners are hanging on by a thread and the prospect of another wave of closures would cripple too many entrepreneurs.
“This is soul-crushing for us. We’ve done everything we can. We’ve taken on debt, we’ve laid off people, our employees, our family,” she said.
“Now we’re just struggling to keep the doors open.”
As of Tuesday, there were 58,613 active cases of COVID-19 in Alberta, the most the province has seen since the beginning of the pandemic.
There were 708 people in hospital with COVID-19, which is the highest total Alberta hospitals have had to deal with in 75 days.
With files from CTV Edmonton