WINNIPEG -- Over the weekend Winnipeggers were allowed to shop inside stores for non-essential items for the first time in months – resulting in long line-ups outside stores and shopping malls.

The province loosened COVID-19 restrictions allowing retailers to open in-store shopping with no restrictions on what they can sell, though they are still required to cap capacity at 25 per cent or 250 people, whichever is lower.

Tara Davis, owner of Tara Davis Studio Boutique, decided to stay closed over the weekend. She didn’t want people lined up in large numbers outside of her shop.

“That was definitely a concern, I think that’s to be expected (because) we saw that last time, when people opened up everyone wanted to get in there as soon as they could.”

Davis said she didn’t want to potentially create a situation where people are transmitting COVID-19.

“I certainly don’t want to open and close, and I don’t want to be a part of the problem that makes us close. I certainly don’t want anyone to get sick in my space or lined up outside,” said Davis.

Cynthia Carr, an epidemiologist and founder of EPI Research INC, said line-ups of people is what’s called a 'choke point' meaning there’s a possibility for community transmission.

She said the onus is on the public to be responsible and prevent the health-care system from becoming overwhelmed.

“If you’re standing in line and it looks like you could be there for 15 – 20 minutes, you might want to consider going another day unless for sure you’re two metres apart, and you’re wearing a mask.”

Carr said just because Manitoba is reopening, it does not mean COVID-19 is less of a risk.

Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief public health officer, said it is concerning to see crowding at retail stores. He said the lockdown created some unintended consequences.

“Closing things down has an effect, and there probably is that increased demand, but we didn’t really have an alternative. Our health-care system was on the verge of being overwhelmed," said Roussin.

Davis said she’s waiting for the demand to go down before she reopens to the public.

“I think I’d sort of like to see what happens you know? What that two-week period looks like with all the numbers for COVID.”