Esplanade slowly getting back to normal

The Esplanade will reopen on a limited basis and transit operations will begin to return to normal — including collecting of fees — on June 15, the City announced on Tuesday during a regular update to the media on pandemic response.

By early afternoon, the province announced that the next stage of reopening process would begin on Monday, June 12 — one week sooner than first stated — and allow gatherings of up to 50 people at places like movie theatres, rec facilities and a variety of business operations.

There will be no cap on patrons to restaurants and casinos, which were previously limited to half of fire-capacity.

The city is still planning for re-opening a number of its facilities, said director of emergency management Merrick Brown, speaking prior to the provincial announcement.

He said that planning continued, but the city’s policy has been to concentrate to having safe operational plans in place, rather than necessarily having facilities open on the day restrictions allow. 

“What we’re seeing across the province is that things are changing and it is very dynamic,” said Brown. “But we can’t just flick a with and reopen (facilities), but we have to get back to operational levels and (ensure) safe operations (of our buildings).”

The museum and art gallery closed in late March to the public as health restrictions, and in May the province allowed such cultural facilities to reopen. The city has stated that its buildings would only reopen once safe operation plans were in place.

The province was set to release more information on potential dates to enter the next stage of reopening the economy and public facilities in an early afternoon press conference on Tuesday.

For two months the Medicine Hat bus system has operated on a no-fee basis and with passengers entering through the rear door to isolate them from drivers.

For the Esplanade, that will include restricting the number of people who have entered the facility, and some interactive displays in the art gallery and archives will be removed. 

Since restrictions on large gatherings are still in place, performances are not expected to return until Alberta government and health officials increase the number of people allowed to gather in one place. The number has been strictly reduced since March 20 in an effort to reduce the potential spread of the deadly respiratory illness to large numbers of people at sporting events, movies, or other gatherings and fitness activities. 

The city has previously said that April bus passes would be honoured during the first month after charging for the service was restored.

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