Published on

Province considers relaxing

pandemic restrictions

       DR BRENT ROUSSIN
 
Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief public health officer

The Manitoba government is making another attempt to reopen the province with proposed changes to pandemic restriction rules that could allow most businesses to reopen with larger capacity limits as soon as the end of this week – and they are asking for public feedback about the changes.

Although case numbers are dropping and vaccination efforts are ramping up, there is also concern about more infectious and possibly deadlier coronavirus variants in the province. Five cases of the B117 coronavirus variant have been confirmed in Manitoba.

“We will continue to take a cautious and gradual approach at restarting our activities and services. We’re asking Manitobans to provide their input and priorities for the next rounds of reopening, while ensuring we continue to protect the health and well-being of all Manitobans,” said Premier Brian Pallister at a February 25 press conference.

Proposed changes for the entire province will be considered for implementation in two phases over a six-week period, beginning as early as March 5 and again on March 26. The following changes under consideration include the following:

Households and gatherings

  • Allowing households the choice of continuing to designate two visitors to their home, or to designate a second household to visit each other, as long as everyone in the house has authorized those designated individuals to visit and families would have to choose either the two-person option or the additional household option;
  • Increasing gathering limits at an outdoor place to 10 people including for outdoor non-organized sport or recreation activities;
  • Increasing the capacity size at places of worship for regular religious services to 25 per cent or 100 people, whichever is lower, with physical distancing measures in place and mask requirements.

Business, retail and restaurants

  • Enabling any type of business to be able to operate with the exception of indoor theatres, indoor concert halls, casino and bingo halls;
  • Expanding the capacity limits for retail stores, malls and personal services to up to 50 per cent capacity or 250 people, whichever is lower, with other public health measures still in effect;
  • Expanding restaurants and licensed premises to up to 50 per cent capacity with requirements to still only sit with members of your household and with other public health measures still in effect;
  • Allowing businesses to resume operating video lottery terminals, with physical distancing measures and barriers in place;
  • Allowing professional theatre groups, dance companies, symphonies or operas to resume rehearsals as long as rehearsals are not accessible to members of the public.

Recreation and fitness

  • Allowing day camps for children to operate at 25 per cent capacity with a maximum group size of 50, with other public health measures in place;
  • Allowing indoor recreation and sporting facilities, such as gyms, fitness centres, rinks, courts, fields, ranges, studios, clubs, pools and centres to open for individual use and group instruction and practices only, with public health measures in place for spectators, common areas and locker rooms for a total capacity of 25 per cent;
  • Allowing dance, theatre and music facilities to open for individual instruction and group classes for a total capacity of 25 per cent;
  • Allowing gyms and fitness centres to provide group instruction or classes at 25 per cent capacity per class with physical distancing measures in place, in addition to one-on-one instruction and individual workouts for a total facility capacity of 25 per cent;
  • Allowing indoor recreational facilities such as arcades, go-kart tracks and children’s facilities to open at 25 per cent capacity with physical distancing measures in place;
  • Allowing outdoor amusement parks to open at 50 per cent capacity with physical distancing measures in place;
  • Allowing users of gyms, fitness centres and pools to not wear a mask while taking part in a physical activity, but requiring mask use in other areas of the facility.

“Manitoba’s case numbers continue to trend in the right direction, which allows us to consider reopening more services cautiously and safely,” said Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief provincial public health officer. “However, with the variant of concern now here in Manitoba, it is crucial that Manitobans continue to follow the fundamentals and avoid the activities that are known to cause the greatest risk – crowded places, closed-spaces, and close-contact settings – so we can contain the spread of COVID-19 until we can immunize and better protect more of our population.”

Roussin also noted that changes could be made to public health orders beginning March 5 based on public feedback and COVID-19 indicators.

Manitobans can provide their feedback on the proposed changes by visiting https://engagemb.ca/. Results of public feedback gathered will be posted on the EngageMB website once completed.