In a surprising turn of events, Premier Jason Kenney announced on Wednesday night a new ‘Restriction Exemption Program’ in Alberta that includes a proof-of-vaccination system that operates similar to a vaccine passport. He also announced the return of some social distancing restrictions. We’ve got a lot to cover, so let’s get started.

First up, the Restriction Exemption Program. This will come into effect on September 20th, and affects all ‘discretionary businesses and events’ such as restaurants, sporting events, and some retail shops. Businesses that ‘need to be accessed for daily living’ will be exempt from the program, although no specific list has been made public quite yet.

What does the Restriction Exemption Program mean in practice? Well, if a business or venue chooses to enter the Restriction Exemption Program, all those 12 and older who wish to enter said business or venue will need to provide 1 of 3 things:

  • Proof of double vaccination (note that for a transitional period between September 20th and October 25, 2021, proof of a single dose would be considered acceptable as long as the dose was given two weeks or more before the time of service);
  • Documentation of a medical exemption; or
  • Proof of a recent (within the previous 72 hours) negative COVID-19 test (either PCR or Rapid Test). The test may not be from Alberta Health Services or Alberta Precision Laboratories.

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Meanwhile, new guidance for social gatherings, religious ceremonies, and larger events like weddings and funerals have also come into play. Most notably of these? Unvaccinated people who are vaccine-eligible will not be permitted to host indoor social gatherings starting September 16th.

If you’re vaccinated, social gatherings are still going to be affected. Indoor private social gatherings will be limited to people from two households and a maximum of 10 people with no restrictions on children under 12.

Finally, there is new guidance for businesses that do not wish to implement the Restriction Exemption Program (will not require proof of vaccination or a negative test) for Alberta. It’s a lot to cover, so we’re going to take it straight from the horse’s mouth here:

Adult (over 18) sport, fitness, recreation and performance activities (Starting September 20th):

  • Indoor group classes and activities are not permitted.
  • Indoor competitions are paused except where vaccine exemptions have been granted.
  • Indoor one-on-one training and solo activities are allowed with 3 metre physical distancing.
  • Outdoor activities can continue with no restrictions.

Restaurants, Cafes, Bars, Pubs and Nightclubs:

  • Indoor dining is not permitted.
  • Outdoor dining only with a maximum of 6 people per table (one household or 2 close contacts for those living alone)
  • Liquor sales and consumption restrictions apply (sales end at 10pm, consumption by 11pm).

Retail, Entertainment, and Recreation Facilities:

  • Capacity restricted to 1/3 fire code occupancy.
  • Attendees must be with household members only, or 2 close contacts if they live alone.
  • Masks and 2 metre physical (this is their typo, not ours) distancing is required.

So, a full-on vaccine passport is not coming to Alberta, but this sure does look awfully close. Basically, the gist here is to play by the rules, or face significant difficulties in accessing or running a business/event. Full disclosure- we’re just cheesed it took this long for something like this to happen.

To check out the new Restriction Exemption Program for Alberta in full, head over to the Government of Alberta website.