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EDITORIAL: Time for province to re-think in-home restrictions

'It's time the province's public-health restrictions regarded our dinner tables in the same way as open seating next to strangers in restaurants.'
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Albertans have endured many incarnations of restrictions imposed by the province during the nearly 19-month pandemic.

All have been necessary to stem the spread of COVID-19, protect those vulnerable to respiratory illness in our community, and help minimize the impact on our over-taxed health-care system.

Lately, however, and with exactly a month to go until Christmas Eve, many who are double vaccinated, and some with a triple dose, are questioning the province's mandate for in-home restrictions.

Currently, as of Oct. 5, indoor private social gatherings face mandatory restrictions that allow for a maximum of 10 vaccine-eligible, vaccinated people from up to two households, with no restrictions on children under the age of 12.

But that same group of people is welcome to attend a local restaurant or fundraising event participating in the restrictions exemption program and dine while seated, unmasked, with an undetermined number of people from an unrestricted number of households, so long as they can show proof of vaccination.

So long as these same people can show proof of vaccination, they are also free to attend a sporting event with large crowds sitting close to one another, unmasked, albeit outdoors, from hundreds of different households.

Surely we are at a higher risk of contracting COVID while unmasked and seated in a place where so many others are seated and unmasked than in our own homes.

Given that so many Albertans have struggled to keep their jobs, their homes, and their businesses during the pandemic, and many more have experienced the mental-health struggles that go along with these massive stressors, it is time for the province to adjust this ridiculous difference in restrictions to allow families to be together again.

Teens and adults alike have faced severe depression, suicide, and other mental-health issues due to the pandemic, and COVID-19 has taken its toll on the addictions community, too. On top of that, winter itself and the holidays are historically a challenging season in the world of mental health.

It's time for the 83.2 per cent, as of Nov. 21, of double-vaccinated Albertans ages 12 and up to be allowed to open their homes to other double-vaccinated friends and family members.

Those who have gone to the trouble of getting two rounds of vaccines are not likely to put their families or their health at risk and open their doors to those who are unvaccinated.

Continuing to isolate families from one another who have been diligently following public-health restrictions, and who are double vaccinated, doesn't make sense when, instead of celebrating with one another in the warmth and comfort of their own homes, they can just hop in their vehicles and head down to the local restaurant.

This also alienates those who either physically or financially can't make that option work.

Indeed, it would be much tougher for the province to audit families at Christmas to determine whether they adhered to public-health guidelines than at a restaurant or fundraising gala. But we've all been relying on a level of trust since the pandemic began — that employees are masking in workplaces as they're supposed to; that people are going in for testing when they have symptoms; that those who do have symptoms are staying home to prevent the potential spread.

It's time the province's public-health restrictions regarded our dinner tables in the same way as open seating next to strangers in restaurants.

For those who have been isolated, struggling, and perhaps barely holding on, it's a necessary gift this holiday. 

Editorials are the consensus view of the St. Albert Gazette’s editorial board.