WINNIPEG -- Provincial health officials are stressing the importance of physical distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic, stating no one should come within six feet of each other in public.

The recommendation is creating problems for some up close and personal businesses.

Shael Lander has been cutting hair for over 30 years and said he has never seen anything affect his salon more than COVID-19.

"I employ six stylists," said Lander. "We went from fully book to nine clients last week."

He voluntarily closed his salon on Saturday, but the decision was tough because there is a lack of information from the government about what he should do.

 "In our situations, we don't have any guidelines. We do know that in our kind of business, we can't social distance because we are physically touching clients' hair," Lander said.

Lander believes the province needs to specifically outline what small businesses that can't maintain physical distancing should do.

"Because it's not a mandatory closure, a lot of landlords aren't even returning calls or returning emails. Luckily, my landlord is willing to work with me and see what can be done," he said.

Like salon owners, massage and physiotherapists have to decide what the right thing to do is.

"There's no mandate. The closure has to do a lot with the public perception. There's been a lot of public shaming which is very unfair," said Ashton Zorn, co-owner of New Leaf Massage Therapy.

New Leaf Massage Therapy closed Saturday, but Zorn is continuing to book appointments for some long-time clients.

"Financially, I don't need to continue to see my clients, but I feel like it's my duty as a leader in the field to try and reduce the panic," said Zorn.

Zorn said he has watched every provincial health press conference on COVID-19 and is closely watching for an announcement about community spread.

He says he screens every client about health and travel history before seeing them. Zorn also noted that his practice has very high sanitation rules, and everything is frequently disinfected.

"If you're uncomfortable working, it's fine, but I think a massage therapy clinic is one of the safest places to spend a day," he said.


While most traditional physiotherapists are closed, virtual physiotherapy services are thriving.

"It's now become a situation where this service might actually be pretty useful for people living in and around Winnipeg or in more urban areas, said Rona McWilliam, co-owner of PhysioLinkMB.

PhysioLinkMB has been around two years and offers clients self-massage technics, online workouts and detailed progress reports.

"The program really allows for the patient to message us too so we can touch base often via that and keeps us in touch regularly," said Tara Wolchuk, the other co-owner of PhysioLinkMB.

As for Lander and his salon staff, they can't virtually give a haircut and are stuck waiting for the pandemic to end.

"The longer this goes on, no one is making a penny," he said.

Health officials have recommended staying at home as much as possible.