WINNIPEG -- Manitoba is easing restrictions for some parts of the province, allowing designated people to visit in homes and allowing stores to reopen along with barbershops and hair salons.

On Thursday, the province released its new round of health orders that will take effect on Saturday, Jan. 23.

While the entire province will remain in the red or critical level of the pandemic response system, there will be 'modest' changes to the restrictions in the areas of Winnipeg, Southern Health, Interlake-Eastern, and Prairie Mountain Health.

"This has to be a gradual and cautious process. We do not want to be opening and then closing and then reopening again," Dr. Brent Roussin, the chief provincial public health officer said. 

Among the changes, the province is introducing a new 'rule of two,' which will allow two designated people – either family or friends – to visit inside homes. The province said only these two people can enter that household.

"It doesn’t mean you can have two people in one day and a different two people the next day," Roussin said. 

The province confirmed this rule applies for an entire household regardless of the number of residents – meaning homes that may include roommates or renters must still designate only two people for the entire house.

Roussin said Manitobans should treat the 'rule of two' like a bubble to keep contacts limited.

Manitoba's Premier Brian Pallister said it is important people stick to two designated visitors only to keep the number of contacts down.

"We don't want to have a COVID get-together. We don't want to have a COVID comeback," Pallister said. "We want people to be able to see some friends and identify two, and on your honour, that is what I'm asking you to do now."

The other changes to health orders include:

  • Groups of up to five people plus household members can visit outdoors on private property;
  • Funerals may now have up to 10 people plus an officiant;
  • Retail stores may reopen with no restrictions on what they are allowed to sell. Stores must follow physical distancing requirements and capacity remains capped at 25 per cent or 250 people, whichever is lower;
  • Barbershops and hairstylists (which are limited to hair appointments only) may reopen at 25 per cent capacity, though they must collect information for contact tracing;
  • Non-regulated health services, including pedorthists and reflexologists, are allowed to reopen, though they must collect information for contact tracing.

The province said, given the climbing cases of COVID-19 in the Northern Health Region, the entire region, along with Churchill, will remain under the strict code red health orders with no changes.

"It is crucial that we follow these orders that are in place, and it is crucial that we follow those fundamentals that we are all well accustomed with," Roussin said. 

The new round of health orders will remain in place for three weeks.