Despite dozens of reservation cancellations in recent days, restaurant owner Jeet Arora is still concerned about the level of customer service he can provide for New Year’s Eve.
Like thousands of other Albertans, the staff at his eatery in southern Edmonton have been affected by COVID-19, both directly and indirectly. One has tested positive for the disease recently, while another employee’s spouse was also tested positive after Christmas.
Arora told Global News that his restaurant operates at half its normal staff level.
“We may have to close the restaurant completely for a week or two,” said the owner of Stanhope Eatery & Bar.
“I hope for god nothing happens here so I can at least survive.”
Arora’s staffing issues are not unique to Edmonton or its industry. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) said they have heard of several reports from across Canada on COVID-19 affecting the workforce.
“Many employees are simply self-isolating because they are a close contact or they feel uncomfortable,” said CFIB’s Annie Dormuth.
“Unfortunately, it exacerbates an existing problem that business owners had to deal with pre-pandemic, and it really is a problem of labor shortages,” Dormuth said.
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On Tuesday, Alberta’s Prime Minister Jason Kenney said his government expects “a significant number” of health workers will not be able to work because of the Omicron variant, which is spreading rapidly across the province.
Kenney answered a question regarding a recent policy change made by Quebec to allow health care and essential workers to continue working – even if they test positive for COVID-19.
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“It’s clearly not our policy in Alberta at the moment,” said Kenney, who also would not rule out the possibility of changing Alberta’s protocols should the situation become serious.
Kenney explained that the county is “looking at” a recent decision by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control to change the isolation requirements for asymptomatic Americans from 10 days to five.
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The union, which represents thousands of Alberta nurses, wants the provincial government to take steps to prevent a Quebec-like situation.
“We know it’s coming. There’s no doubt about it because of what we’ve seen in other jurisdictions,” said Danielle Larivee, vice president of United Nurses of Alberta.
In a statement to Global News, Alberta Health Services said that early indications show that the rate of illness in December 2021 “will not be much different from previous years so far.”
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