Sports practices for youth to resume, with restrictions, in Alberta on Monday

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Games will still be prohibited, but Alberta children and teens will soon be allowed to hit the ice for hockey practices following a government announcement that it will permit limited school and team sports to resume.

The province said in a news release that starting Monday, children and youth will be allowed to take part in "lessons, practices and conditioning activities for indoor and outdoor team-based minor sports and athletics."

Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro noted that "strong measures" remain in place that must still be followed to protect against the spread of COVID-19.

Participants cannot be older than 18, excluding coaches or trainers, and all games are still prohibited, the government news release on Saturday said.

There's also a 10-person maximum, including coaches and trainers, and participants must maintain physical distancing from each other at all times.

"Alberta’s government is committed to supporting the health and well-being of children and youth provincewide," Shandro said in the news release.

"Let's all continue doing our part to limit the spread of COVID-19 and protect the health system that every Albertan relies on."

A spokesman with Alberta Health said dance is also included in Saturday's announcement.

Late last month the province said children's sport and performance activities could resume Feb. 8 at off-site facilities, but that they had to relate to school activities, such as physical education classes.

“Despite this small change, one thing remains the same: we all need to be cautious and make safe choices to limit the spread of COVID-19," Dr. Deena Hinshaw, chief medical officer of health, said in the news release.

"It is vital that everyone involved diligently follows the health measures as we move forward. Together, we can continue to reduce the spread and keep protecting our heath system."

Hockey Edmonton said on its website that it "has swung into high gear to get our players back on the ice quickly and safely next week" and that it's already been in touch with city officials to get arenas open.

"We are all excited by the prospect of seeing our kids back out playing the game they love. We will need to do things differently, of course, in order to ensure everyone's safety," the organization's general manager, Steve Hogle, said in the post.

Hockey Alberta had announced earlier this week that games for the remainder of the season would be cancelled.

Monday will be the first day of other loosened restrictions in Alberta. Restaurants can reopen to in-person dining and one-on-one fitness training for adults can resume with restrictions.

The province has seen its case numbers and hospitalizations drop since new measures were introduced in December to reduce public interactions.

Premier Jason Kenney has said that future relaxation of public health rules will be tied mainly to declining hospitalization cases.

Alberta reported 12 new COVID-19 deaths, as well as 348 new cases on Saturday.

Hinshaw tweeted on Saturday that there are 457 people with COVID-19 in Alberta's hospitals, and that 84 of those are in intensive care.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 6, 2021.

The Canadian Press