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Alberta lifts state of emergency as COVID cases continue to flatten


EDMONTON — Alberta is lifting its state of public health emergency in the fight against the spread of COVID-19.

Health Minister Tyler Shandro says the province has successfully worked to reduce the novel coronavirus, allowing the emergency declaration to be lifted three months after it was imposed.

The status provided the government with more authority to deal with the pandemic, such as stepping in to assist long-term care homes and allowing health inspectors broader access at airports to ensure hygiene rules were being followed.

Shandro says existing ministerial and public-health orders remain in place, including limits on large gatherings.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the chief medical officer of health, says there are 440 active cases of COVID-19 in the province, with 31 people currently in hospital.

Hinshaw reported one additional death related to the virus, bringing that total to 151.

More 343,000 tests have been conducted on both those who show COVID-19 symptoms and those who do not, she said Monday.

Last week, Alberta moved into the second phase of its economic relaunch plan.

Restaurants can now take in more dine-in customers, while movie theatres, gyms, arenas, libraries, spas and other businesses can join retailers, hair salons and barber shops in opening their doors.

"As Albertans go out more (and) while our collective efforts can and will reduce the spread of infection, we can also expect to see some increase in cases around Alberta," Hinshaw told reporters.

She said Albertans need to remain vigilant as COVID-19 cases can flare up.

"I think it's very likely that we will see some kind of a second wave," said Hinshaw. "The timing and the peak of that wave are entirely dependent on us."

Shandro said additional health orders and changes will come as necessary should outbreaks and cases rise sharply.

"To that end, we'll introduce legislation later this week to ensure that we have the power to respond to the pandemic as it's needed," said Shandro.

He said details will be revealed when the legislation is tabled in the house.

"We've come a long way but the fight against COVID is not over," said Shandro.

Hinshaw also responded to a report that some Americans allowed to cross the border and travel through Alberta en route to Alaska are instead staying and vacationing in Banff.

Hinshaw said she spoke to federal officials over the weekend and is following up, but said "I don't have information to indicate this is a significant number of people crossing the border."

The border between Canada and the United States is closed to non-essential travel. But those going through to Alaska are allowed into Canada, as long as they move through the country directly and avoid contact with others as much as possible.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 15, 2020

Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press

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