Be prepared for more travel, continued business restrictions due to COVID-19 variants: Hinshaw

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While those numbers have been trending down for several weeks, the spectre of the wider spread from the variants has led the province to delay any plans to end a lockdown on bars, restaurants and gyms that dates to mid-December.

That’s led members of the hospitality industry to urge the province to provide financial support for businesses facing desperate times.

“Please present to your caucus our ask as an industry for additional financial support that would mirror what has been executed in Ontario that has helped immensely in keeping their hospitality industry alive,” Alberta Hospitality Association president Ernie Tsu wrote in an email to Calgary-Fish Creek MLA Richard Gotfried on Tuesday.

Trolley 5 Restaurant and Brewery owner Ernie Tsu in Calgary on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. Photo by Darren Makowichuk/Postmedia

He said the sector is seeking provincial grants to ensure 100 per cent rebates on property tax and utilities costs retroactive to December, when the latest lockdown went into effect.

And he repeated his plea for the province to produce data showing the role the industry plays in spreading the virus.

“With the current data still not available to our industry as to why we are still locked down, this financial aid would help to bridge the anxiety and mental health issues which are now starting to truly increase on a day to day basis,” wrote Tsu, who owns the Trolley 5 Brew Pub in Calgary.

But on Tuesday, Hinshaw said those restrictions need to remain in the face of the threat posed by the new COVID-19 variants.

“I know many Albertans and impacted businesses are eager to reopen, this is understandable and I wish it was not necessary to keep the restrictions in place a little while longer,” she said.

“The rise of the new variants also make it vital we not move too quickly, which could have dire consequences for our health system and our health,” she said.

Frustration over restrictions has led to increased disinformation and several incidents in recent weeks of enforcement and health-care officials being “mistreated, verbally abused or treated disrespectfully while carrying out their duties,” she said.

“We need to remember that COVID is the enemy, not one another.”

Twitter: @BillKaufmannjrn

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