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Chief Public Health Officer ‘disappointed’ with liquor store lineups

A Screengrab of a media briefing with P.E.I. Premier Dennis King and Chief Public Health Officer Heather Morrison held on March 18, 2020.
A Screengrab of a media briefing with P.E.I. Premier Dennis King and Chief Public Health Officer Heather Morrison held on March 18, 2020. - Stu Neatby
CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. —

Following a decision to close down government-owned liquor and cannabis outlets, P.E.I.’s Chief Health Officer said she was disappointed to see Islanders queue up outside stores.

Heather Morrison made the announcement that provincially-owned liquor stores would be closing as of 2 p.m. Thursday. Privately-owned liquor stores and off-sales at breweries are not currently being restricted by the measures.

Less than an hour after the measure was announced, crowds of Islanders were seen lining up in close quarters at P.E.I. Liquor Commission outlets in Charlottetown.

"I have to say I'm disappointed in Islanders' response in the last three hours,” Morrison said at a press briefing on Thursday evening.

“We have talked about social distancing. We have talked about the importance of staying home unless it’s essential. That appears to have been ignored.”

Morrison noted that alcohol is considered essential to some individuals, which was why agency stores will be permitted to remain open for the time being. She also said the Province is looking at “alternative ways” to allow alcohol sales, which may include online sales.

Morrison provided further clarified that the measure is intended to safeguard staff and to close non-essential retail outlets to limit public contact. Outlets such as gas stations, grocery stores, food banks, pharmacies and hardware stores are considered essential. Earlier in the day, Morrison said hair dressers, barbers, aestheticians, beauty salons, malls, gyms and pools are considered non-essential and are being asked to close.

During the briefing, Matthew MacKay, Minister of Economic Growth and Tourism, announced scheduled Provincial loan payments from Finance P.E.I., Island Investment Development Inc., and the PEI Century Fund would be deferred for three months. A $4.5 million will be provided to Community Business Development Corporations for financing for small businesses.

In addition to a $25 million emergency fund for workers and businesses announced Monday, MacKay announced that workers who have experienced a drop in working hours will be able to access a $200 per week allowance from the province. More details would be available Thursday, he said.

Education Minister Brad Trivers said the province is working to provide daycare service for essential service workers, such as doctors and nurses. He urged essential service workers to apply for this childcare online.

Trivers also said the supports available for licensed childcare centre staff may differ from those of unlicensed childcare operators and staff. But he said efforts will be made to ensure licensed childcare staff are eligible for federal Employment Insurance benefits. Unlicensed childcare operators would be eligible for a provincial emergency income relief fund for up to $500 per week.

“I know it’s rather ironic to some of my Premiers across the country that I would be lobbying to keep the CBC on the air. But I do know how important it is to Prince Edward Island."

-Premier Dennis King

Premier Dennis King also said he hoped to see a reversal of the decision by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation management to discontinue the evening Compass program. King said he had raised the issue in a conversation with deputy prime minister Chrystia Freeland earlier in the day.

King said he reminded Freeland that hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars fund the CBC. He also said CBC North, the only entity in the territories, will still operate an evening TV news broadcast.

“I think it’s the same here in Prince Edward Island,” King said.

“I know it’s rather ironic to some of my Premiers across the country that I would be lobbying to keep the CBC on the air. But I do know how important it is to Prince Edward Island everyday and, in particular, a time of public health emergency.”

Stu.neatby@theguardian.pe.ca

Twitter.com/stu_neatby


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