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Mayor Nenshi calls new COVID-19 measures ‘necessary’ and ‘critical’

CALGARY (660 NEWS) – The mayor of Calgary said the latest COVID-19 are necessary and critical as cases and deaths continue to spike in the city, as he also issues a stern message towards people who continue to flagrantly violate the measures.

“Stop being so fricking self-indulgent,” Naheed Nenshi said.

Mayor Nenshi was joined by the chief of the Calgary Emergency Management Agency (CEMA), Sue Henry, and chief bylaw officer Ryan Pleckaitis to respond to the latest measures by the provincial government.

Nenshi said he has been calling for these types of restrictions for several weeks now and hopes they can result in a reduction of cases.

“This was necessary, it was critical, it had to be done,” Nenshi added.

He noted, however, that can only happen if Calgarians follow the rules.

“I need to remind everyone that the vast, vast majority of people just follow the law. When you tell them what the law is, they follow it. So, most enforcement is personal enforcement in me saying I’m not going to do something that’s wrong,” Nenshi said.

Henry said she also supports the measures and encouraged patience among Calgarians, especially as reports have surfaced of people panic buying items at the stores.

She said that CEMA is still reviewing the orders announced Tuesday and how they will affect local services.

When it comes to enforcing these new orders, Pleckaitis said the province has approved the request to give level two peace officers the ability to enforce health orders.

This means Calgary will have over 100 officers who can support these efforts.

Pleckaitis also touched on the anti-mask rally held downtown last weekend saying bylaw officers are still working on issuing more tickets, and they are working on expanding efforts to improve enforcement at future events.

“No doubt, this is a daunting task. But it’s one where we’re relying on collaboration and integration of our services to be effective in our response,” he said.

Protestors marching in defiance to rules surrounding COVID-19 during a rally in Calgary on Saturday, Nov. 28, 2020.

He would not go into specific details as to how they may adjust their approach for events coming up, to avoid tipping off those who take part, but Pleckaitis said they are working closely with police to find the best approach.

Officers have also penalized several illegal religious gatherings in the city and a church that was over capacity.

He noted penalties for breaking these rules can result in tickets up to $3,000.

Nenshi was more blunt in saying he is fed up with these activities.

“You’re not doing this because you think it’s going to change anything. You’re not doing this because you’re standing up for your rights and you think you’ll be able to convince other people to do it, you’re doing it because you get a thrill out of it. You’re doing it because you think, look at me I’m so cool, I’m speaking out against the man. Well, quit it,” Nenshi said. “Everyone has the right to be an idiot. What you don’t have the right to do is put other people at risk.”

There is certainly added pain due to the fact these restrictions may put a wrench in many peoples’ plans for the holidays, but there’s hope people will adapt and then we can hopefully rise above all of it in the new year.

“Let’s create traditions of caring,” said Nenshi. “Traditions where we reach out to people who are isolated, who are alone. It’s hard to be alone during the holidays and this year is going to be so much harder. Let’s reach out.”

Nenshi said there are numerous services available for people, such as contacting the Distress Centre or calling 211 for assistance.

There are also continued efforts to protect the most vulnerable people in the city, especially those experiencing homelessness. The city is working with community agencies and the province to ensure there is more than enough shelter space available for them, and they can work out emergency plans with CEMA if it is required.

“The real answer here is using COVID as an opportunity to end homelessness in our communities, and that really means building in housing,” Nenshi said.

The mayor said there will be announcements coming around how the city plans to make use of federal funding intended to facilitate the construction of affordable housing, and this whole situation could speed up the approach.

The holiday season also highlights a call to continue supporting local businesses, with more expected to struggle over the coming weeks due to the lockdown. City officials said it is now more important than ever to keep your spending in the local economy. But people also need to avoid overreacting like in the early days of the pandemic.

A sign encourages shoppers in Calgary to buy local.

“We are starting to hear reports this morning of people rushing out, stockpiling resources, and again buying loads of toilet paper. This isn’t helpful for us as a city. It’s creating lineups, it’s creating crowds, and it’s creating panic. It’s not what we need at this time. Please, keep your head and keep your cool,” said Henry.

It will also be easier to make use of curbside pickup or delivery services along with shopping local, as parking restrictions have been eased in many popular areas such as along 17 Ave. S.W and in Kensington.

“That dollar or two more you spend could be the difference of keeping that business in business,” added Nenshi.

While it seems like an extremely low point for the city and the province in the pandemic, there’s still hope that the restrictions will have the desired effect and we can start to see improvement in the new year.

“I don’t know when this is over. I don’t know what normal looks like on the other of this. I don’t know what better looks like on the other side of this. I don’t know when we’re going to look back on this and remember it as a distant memory,” said Nenshi. “But what I know, what I do know, is throughout our history and throughout the history of the world, crisis is defined by the response to it. It is defined by what people choose to do. It is defined by our choices and our ability to look after one another. The choices we make today are the stories we will tell decades from now.”

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