An additional 56 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Alberta since yesterday, bringing the total to 542.
Up to 42 of them are likely from community transfer and the continually rising number requires stronger actions to contain the spread, said Alberta Premier Jason Kenney.
The maximum size for group gatherings has been lowered to 15 people from the previous maximum of 50. It includes family gatherings, funerals and religious celebrations.
Indoors and out, a physical distancing of two metres should be observed, said Kenney.
The province also announced closure of all provincial parks and public lands to recreational vehicle traffic.
Effective immediately, non-essential businesses will be closed, including close-contact businesses like hair salons, barber shops, tattooing and piercing studios and wellness clinics.
Also subject to closure are non-emergency and non-critical health services including dentistry, physiotherapy, massage, chiropractry, podiatry and optometry services.
All dine-in services must close for patrons but can offer take out and delivery.
Non-essential retail operations such as clothing stores, computer and gaming stores, gift and furniture stories must also close.
“The actions we are taking are tough but necessary to protect public health,” Kenney said. “The more that we comply with the rules like these being recommended by public health experts, the faster we can get through all of this and restart our economy.”
Dr. Deena Hinshaw, provincial medical officer, said Alberta Health Services has halted all non-urgent diagnostic imaging, and testing laboratories have asked physicians to stop sending materials for non-urgent tests to free up labs for COVID-19 testing.
The province also announced measure to assist renters, decreeing that no renter will be evicted April 1 for non-payment of rent. Rental rates will be frozen until the end of the health crisis and fees for late payment of rent will also be suspended.
Kenney told Albertans to prepare for continuing challenges from the COVID-19 crisis as well as the implosion of oil prices that has drastic effect on the economy.
“Let me be blunt with Albertans. We are facing what will likely be the largest single contraction in our economy in our history. These are going to be very challenging days ahead. Governments are acting and we are a resilient and remarkably innovative people.
“I want Albertans to understand with realism what we are about to go through, what many people are already going through. But please remember that we have each other and we will get through this.”