The Manitoba government is reducing public health restrictions over the next several weeks, Premier Heather Stefanson announced Wednesday, and will also make $16.3 million available to businesses and the arts and culture sector.
“Last week, we chose to extend public health orders to ensure the COVID-19 situation in Manitoba was stabilizing or improving, and we can see that continues to be the case,” said Stefanson. “New public health orders will reduce restrictions over the next two weeks for private gatherings and begin a shift in how we address capacity limits and how and when we gather in public spaces.”
Private gatherings where everyone is fully vaccinated will be expanded to allow the household plus 25 others in indoor spaces and 50 people in outdoor spaces. More stringent restrictions are in place for private gatherings with individuals who are not vaccinated. However, these are also expanded from previous public health orders. The changes to public health orders will also allow sports and recreation tournaments to resume, extend liquor sales to 12 a.m. at licensed premises and adjust capacity restrictions in many public spaces.
“To be effective, public health orders should only be as restrictive as we need at the time,” said Dr. Brent Roussin, chief provincial public health officer. “The data and modelling show that we are stabilizing and may have in fact passed the peak we expected from omicron. The next few weeks will be critical as we monitor these trends.” The intent is to implement a gradual loosening of capacity restrictions and other measures by spring while learning to live with COVID-19.
The new public health orders will come into effect at 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 8 and will remain in place until Tuesday, Feb. 22. Manitoba remains at the Orange (Restricted) level under the Pandemic Response System.
The Manitoba government is also providing further support to businesses by expanding program eligibility under the Sector Support Program and providing second payments to those affected by the COVID-19 public health orders that were in place before Jan. 31.
The expansion to the Sector Support Program is expected to flow up to $10.3 million of the $22 million allocated under this program. Businesses can apply for grants based on the number of employees.
The premier noted $6 million in new funding has been allocated to the Arts and Culture Sustainability Program to support organizations in this sector negatively affected by COVID-19 and public health order restrictions.