Manitoba relaxing some public health orders starting Friday
WINNIPEG -- The Manitoba government announced the next phase of reopening on Tuesday, which includes changes to group gatherings, and capacity limits at places of worship.
Premier Brian Pallister and Dr. Brent Roussin, chief provincial public health officer, made the announcement at a news conference at the Manitoba Legislative Building.
The new changes, which will come into effect on March 5 at 12:01 a.m., include:
- Households can choose to either continue to designate two visitors to their home, or they can designate a second household, so that these two households can visit each other, as long as everyone has authorized the visits;
- Increasing gathering limits at outdoor public or private places to 10 people. This includes non-organized outdoor sport or recreation activities;
- Increasing capacity limits at places of worship to 25 per cent or 100 people, whichever is lower, with physical distancing and mask requirements;
- Any type of business can operate, except for indoor theatres, indoor concert halls, casinos and bingo halls;
- Increasing capacity limits at retail stores, malls and personal service businesses to up to 50 per cent or 250 people, whichever is lower;
- Increasing capacity limits at restaurants and licensed premises to up to 50 per cent. Only members of the same household can sit together at the table;
- Businesses, excluding casinos, can operate video lottery terminals, as long as there is physical distancing and barriers in place;
- Professional theatre groups, dance companies, symphonies and operas can hold rehearsals that aren’t open to the public;
- Day camps for kids can operate at 25 per cent capacity;
- Indoor recreation and sporting facilities, such as gyms, fitness centres, rinks, courts, fields, ranges, studios, pools and centres, can open at 25 per cent capacity. These facilities must follow public health measures for spectators, common areas and locker rooms. The province removed the requirement for one-on-one instruction;
- People at gyms, fitness centres and pools have to wear a mask while working out and in all other parts of the facility, with the exception of being in a swimming pool;
- Dance, theatre and music facilities can open at a capacity of 25 per cent; and
- Indoor recreational facilities can open at 25 per cent capacity with physical distancing in place.
These changes apply to all Manitoba health regions and expire on March 25.
Roussin said later in March, the province will continue to evaluate whether Manitoba will remain at this level or continue to reopen.
He noted that the relaxing of the public health orders does not mean the risk of COVID-19 is reduced.
“We were at this place before. We know if we let our guards down, we’re going to see transmission of this virus again, so we all have to be on guard and continue to practise those fundamentals,” he said.
“We still have a number of individuals in intensive care and in the hospital and we know that as we see increased transmission, we start increasing that demand on our health-care system.”
Roussin added that variants of concern have been detected in Manitoba, and that these variants spread easily. He said people still need to follow public health rules, because Manitoba is not in the clear.
“This is not a return to normal, but this is a sign that as we continue to follow the fundamentals, and our case numbers continue to decline, we can ensure access to businesses, activities and services that may make our lives better,” Roussin said.
Pallister described today’s announcement as “cautious changes” and a “two-phased approach.”
According to the Manitoba government, since Feb. 25 it received nearly 27,000 responses during the public engagement process on the proposed public health orders.
EASTER AND PASSOVER PLANS
Roussin said for Manitobans looking ahead to their plans for Easter and Passover, they now can at least celebrate with another household.
“While I understand this is not how we all wish to celebrate, it is more than what we were able to do at this time last year, and still necessary to keep the transmission of this virus down,” he said.
THE NDP SPEAKS OUT
Manitoba NDP Leader Wab Kinew said when it comes to reopening the economy, one piece that still needs to be addressed is the need for paid sick leave on an ongoing basis and on a permanent basis.
“If we can put in provisions to help people stay home when they’re sick and to also address the social determinants of health, so if somebody does get sick they can isolate safely from other folks in their immediate family or surroundings, I think that would really help us to be able to sustain the progress fighting against COVID-19 as we hopefully wait for vaccines to rollout through the general public,” Kinew said.
He said another thing that needs to be addressed is restaurants and their owners saying even 50 per cent capacity is not a viable option.
“If I’m hearing a lot of business owners right, rather than just having financial assistance, which certainly can play a role, I think they would actually like to get closer to just earning revenue as to how they did previous to the pandemic,” he said.
Kinew recognized they can’t just go back to having no restrictions. However, he said, with Tuesday’s introduction of allowing two households to visit each other, he wonders why restaurants can’t seat people from within these two household together.
“In particular when I think about single folks and seniors in the community who are really struggling with the mental health impacts of the pandemic, I wonder why a grandparent couldn’t sit with their grandkids if in fact they are part of that same household bubble,” he said.
Kinew said he thinks it’s important for Manitobans to do their part and help stop the spread of COVID-19.
He noted that the case count and the test positivity rate is down, which may have people feeling good as they head into spring.
“But we have seen too often in Manitoba what can happen once we let things get out of control with respect to community spread,” he said.