WINNIPEG -- All of Manitoba has officially entered Code Red restrictions as of Thursday, Nov. 12 at 12:01 a.m. after the province made a last-minute change to group gatherings limits.

Public health officials announced the tightened restrictions earlier this week, citing a spike in cases and a strain on the healthcare system as reasons for the new rules.

“Our plans are that these new restrictions will help halt the spread of this virus and to protect Manitobans and ensure our healthcare system can continue to function,” said Dr. Brent Roussin, chief provincial public health officer.

Under these new restrictions, Manitobans must adhere to the following rules:

  • Restricting travel to and from northern Manitoba, with non-essential travel discouraged;
  • Retail businesses listed as critical services can remain open at 25 per cent capacity;
  • Retail businesses that aren’t listed as critical services can only provide e-service, curbside pickup and delivery;
  • All personal service businesses, such as hair salons, must close;
  • All religious and cultural gathering places must close, but can provide services virtually;
  • Gyms and fitness centres must close;
  • Restaurants need to close to in-person dining, but can provide delivery, drive-thru and takeout; and
  • Recreational activities, sport facilities, casinos, museums, galleries, libraries, movie theatres and concert halls must close.

Initially, the province said under the new restrictions social contacts would be limited to members of each household and social gatherings would be prohibited. On Wednesday night, the province made a last-minute change to this restriction, now allowing group gatherings of no more than five people.

“This applies to ceremonies such as weddings and funerals and social events like banquets and receptions, as well as informal gatherings such as dinners and house parties,” the health orders says.

Under the Code Red measures, Manitoba is not making any changes to childcare services or Kindergarten to Grade 12 education. Therapeutic care services that are self-regulated, including massage therapists, can also continue to provide services.

“We are truly at a crossroads in the fight against this pandemic,” Roussin said.

“The measures we’ve had in place over the last number of weeks, while restrictive, have obviously not been enough.”

Roussin noted that beyond the mandated restrictions, Manitobans can also reduce the number of shoppers in a household to the lowest number possible, work from home if possible, reduce travel unless it’s necessary, and remember every person you’ve come in contact with.

Manitoba will be under Code Red for at least four weeks or two incubation periods of COVID-19.

- With files from CTV’s Renee Rodgers.