WINNIPEG -- The provincial government is asking closed child care centres to reopen to ensure there are spaces for families of emergency care workers battling COVID-19.

Manitoba's Minister of Families Heather Stefanson made the announcement Thursday afternoon.

“Our government has been reaching out to a number of closed childcare centres, that continue to receive provincial government grants, but remain closed across the province,” she said. “We are asking them to open up to care for a maximum of 16 children in centres, and up to eight children in home-based facilities, as per the recommendations outlined by the chief provincial public health officer.”

Licensed child-care facilities that want to help by re-opening or continuing to have spaces available should notify the province by email.

Last month, Manitoba suspended its licensed childcare services in an attempt to help flatten the curve, but established measures to ensure frontline health care workers would be able to access child care.

An $18 million grant was announced to allow early childhood educators to be able to offer childcare services in their home or community.

All childcare providers are asked to reimburse parent fees if care has not been provided and to not charge parents to hold spots if they are not being used, Stefanson said.

As of March 31, 350 licensed child care centres and home-based providers opened up 1,600 more spaces, says Stefanson. She adds over 1,200 children of front-line workers have found spaces.

“To all of you who have stepped up to provide childcare during this global pandemic, you truly are heroes helping our frontline health heroes,” she said.

This is a developing story. More details to come.