Albertans are close to the end of our first week of strict lockdown measures, now in place until at least Jan. 21, 2021. Very stringent gathering restrictions have caused many holiday plans to be cancelled outright, something that is obviously very disappointing. But, we know the strength and ingenuity of the people of this province, and are sure we can find ways to celebrate while still adhering to the guidelines and doing all we can to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.
As the provincial government has repeatedly said that indoor gatherings are the main way that COVID-19 is spreading, on Dec. 8 all indoor and outdoor social gatherings in Alberta were prohibited. Albertans must only associate with their close contacts, and offenders could face a $1,000 fine.
- Close contacts can only consist of immediate family members
- Those who live alone may have two outside close contacts, which must remain the same for the duration of the lockdown
- If the close contact of a person living alone lives with other people, gatherings may not be held at their home
- A single parent of two children under the age of 18 may have two outside close contacts
None of the above applies to co-parenting arrangements, service visits from caregivers, health or childcare providers, those carrying out home maintenance and repairs, and mutual support group meetings.
Gathering restrictions are a way the Government of Alberta is trying to combat the spread of COVID-19, but compliance is a worry for officials. Since Albertans are an independent lot, experts worry that our rebellious nature may mean people just ignore the guidelines. A Global News article suggests that there is good reason to think that despite the seriousness of the situation, people may just go ahead and carry out their regular holiday rituals as usual. Homeowners should be aware, however, that not only are they placing their health and wellness at risk by failing to comply (as well as a rather large fine) … they are also placing themselves at risk of liability.
Breaking the rules? If someone gets sick, you could be sued
To poke gentle fun at how much the virus enjoys it when people get together; the Government of Alberta has created the COVIDLoves.ca website. “COVID Loves the Holidays” features Uncle Mike spreading his good cheer (and the virus), and “COVID Loves Parties” features a jolly party-goer mixing and mingling uncomfortably close to others.
It’s worth the reminder, as a recent CTV News article reporting the results of a recent Angus Reid poll of 5,000 Canadians showed that 30% of respondents still have every intention of visiting their family over the holidays, and 10% of those are planning to leave their community or province to do so. The article also quotes personal injury lawyer Nainesh Kotak, who warns homeowners that if they plan to act as scofflaws, they not only are they opening themselves up to a fine and for illness to spread in their home, they are also putting themselves at risk of liability. Kotak says that home insurance policies have a number of exclusions, including those for communicable diseases, unlawful acts, and criminal acts.
“If you are doing something that is outside of the law or outside of the public health regulations or if you have an exclusion for communicable disease, there is a risk that if you are sued, your own insurance policy will not cover you,” he says.
Depending on your policy, insurance companies may not pay out for damages should a lawsuit be launched should someone become ill after being at your home for an unlawful gathering. This leaves you, as the homeowner, on the hook for the associated costs of a lawsuit, which can be quite significant.
More COVID-19 measures in Alberta
COVID-19 has hit Alberta hard. On Dec. 14, the Government of Alberta reported there were 1,887 confirmed new cases of COVID-19 – the most ever – bringing the province’s total number of cases since the pandemic began to 81,986.
To understand just how bad things have gotten it is useful to compare death rates over the months.
- Date of 100th death: April 30
- Date of 200th death: July 31
- Date of 300th death: Oct. 22
- Date of 400th death: Nov. 11
- Date of 500th death: Nov. 23
- Date of 600th death: Dec. 6
- Date of 700th death: Dec. 13
In just three months, Alberta logged more than 400 deaths, over twice that of the previous five months combined. With the health-care system reaching its tipping point and hospitals becoming overcrowded, on Dec. 3 the government requested funding from the federal government for the establishment of Alberta three field hospitals to help offset the strain on the system.
As the numbers have continued to rise alarmingly, new limitations are the most extensive since the complete provincial lockdown beginning in mid-March. There is now a mandatory mask mandate for the entire province and a work-from-home order when possible. Alberta has closed its restaurants, bars, pubs, lounges, and cafes to everything but take-out and delivery. Entertainment and recreation facilities, and personal and wellness services, have been told to shut their doors. Sports and recreation activities have been effectively banned. Retail outlets may remain open, but with a maximum 15% capacity, and doctors’ offices and professionals such as lawyers and accountants may also remain open, provided they are limited to one-on-one services.
We wish you a happy and safe holiday
We at Lane’s wish you all the very best for the rest of 2020 and a happy and healthy start to the new year. If you have any questions about your coverage options, contact us at our Calgary, Edmonton, Banff, and Alberta offices today to discuss all aspects of your home insurance policy in Alberta.