The COVID-19 pandemic has been brutal, wreaking havoc all over the world and changing daily life as we know it. Social distancing measures, masks, sanitisation and staying indoors are the new normal now, and it seems that all of these are here to stay for some time, with a viable vaccine still quite some time away from mass production. Nevertheless, some countries have been able to flatten the curve of infections, with aggressive testing, contact tracing and sensible quarantine and lockdown rules, and we are now seeing these countries take the tentative first steps towards reopening and some semblance of normal life.
Canada is one such country, even with just under 100,000 confirmed cases so far, of which 62,000 are currently active. However, the daily trend in case numbers has been downwards for some time now, which has raised hopes that Canada can move towards reopening the economy and safeguarding the livelihoods of millions of people who have been severely affected by lockdown measures.
Various provinces have been relaxing restrictions based on the situations in their territories, with most of them having multi-stage plans in place to gradually reopen. For example, Alberta has moved on to stage 2 of its reopening plan, with casinos, hairdressers and gyms among the businesses which have been allowed to start operating again. However, it is not as straightforward as that, with sanitisation, separation screens and masks needing to be mandatory for all visitors. Nevertheless, demand is definitely high as people step out after months indoors, with some businesses reporting that their websites crashed due to the increased traffic for bookings. This will come as a huge boost to many sectors, even though some of them had managed to provide online solutions to customers, such as casinos, which had gone the legit online casino route in Canada and had tied up with gambling websites to ensure that customers could still get the casino experience from the safety of their homes. Alberta and Nova Scotia are the first Canadian provinces to allow casinos and bingo halls to reopen, with others set to follow suit soon, and the gradual reopening of the casino sector will benefit over 100,000 workers who had to stay at home during the lockdown, affecting their income.
Smaller businesses across the country have been reopening, as they are the ones hit hardest by the lockdown, but larger chains and brands are still holding back and assessing the situation. Restaurants and bars have also allowed to reopen in some provinces, with restrictions on capacity in place. In Alberta, for example, restaurants need to limit capacity to 50% and ensure that there is adequate social distancing between different groups of patrons. Gatherings can also be held to an extent, with 50 people allowed for indoor gatherings and a maximum of 100 for outdoor events.
Reopening is vital to the health of the economy, as small businesses especially will struggle to go months without any customers and therefore any revenue. As it is, it is estimated that over 25% of restaurants in Canada will not be able to reopen, putting thousands of jobs at risk. Therefore, rules which allow establishments to reopen, even with limited capacity, are welcome, as this will allow businesses to start making revenue again and safeguard the livelihood of thousands of workers in the service sector.