WINNIPEG -- Manitoba announced proposed changes to the current public health orders on Tuesday, which could mean potential changes to household gatherings, but one health official is advising that people must not abuse the rules.

“Just because the order says you can do something, I think people need to understand that it’s still a choice,” said Dr. Jazz Atwal, acting deputy chief provincial public health officer at a news conference on Wednesday.

“We still need to look at the spirit of the order.”

Under Manitoba’s current public health orders, visitors at private residences are restricted, with the exceptions of support workers, tradespeople, and limited visitors for those who live alone.

The province’s new, proposed restrictions would allow any two people to visit a home at one time.

The proposed rules would also allow up to five people, plus household members, to gather outdoors on private property.

Atwal said he doesn’t want people to abuse these orders, but it’s important for people to have connections with others.

“It is good for mental health,” he said.

“It’s good to connect with your family and really close friends to provide mental health supports to each other.”

However, Atwal said Manitobans still need to keep in mind the spirit and intent behind the proposed orders.

“The spirit here isn’t to have two people over every two hours, and a different two people,” he said. 

“Try to look at creating that smaller bubble. You know, perhaps it is parents, perhaps it is a brother, perhaps it is a sister, and help each other out through this difficult time with the pandemic, is the thought.”

Atwal added that the indoor gatherings do pose some risks, so people should still stick to the fundamentals of wearing masks and physical distancing.

“This is all going to be about myself, yourself, about every Manitoban still needing to practise those fundamentals,” he said.

“We are taking a slow approach to this and whatever those orders look like, we need to continue to keep that in mind.”

Atwal noted that outdoor gatherings pose a lower risk.

“We always talk about outdoor activities being less risky,” he said. “It’s that close, prolonged indoor interaction with individuals that we do have to worry about.”

Atwal said everyone knows someone who has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, whether it is due to layoffs or having a surgery delayed, which is why it’s so important for people to follow the rules and take precautions.

“It’s incumbent upon all Manitobans to practise those fundamentals, to ensure that we don’t unnecessarily create cases,” he said.

- With files from CTV’s Danton Unger.