Since last Friday Manitobans have seen their provincial government react strongly to the rapid increase in Covid-19 cases in the province. On the advice of public health officials, the government enacted new restrictions in the form of a modified health order. These changes to Manitoba’s already restricted status limited social contact to members of one’s household and limited in person retail sales to essential items.
According to public health officials, the current level of infection is not sustainable for our health care system. In fact, in the last 20 days hospitalization for Covid-19 has doubled and ICU treatment of the virus has more than tripled. ICU use is currently at 146% of normal capacity. Daily new infections are still far too high and the test positivity rate shows widespread community transmission. On Thursday morning, the Grandview hospital was closed and staff were transferred to the Grandview personal care home to assist with the outbreak there.
However, the projections made a few weeks ago predicted new infection levels much higher than those we are seeing this week. The chief medical officer stated that although our level of new cases is too high, the fact that they are not continuing to accelerate is an indication that restrictions are beginning to have an effect. In other words, we no longer have the pedal to the metal but we’re still going way too fast!
These changing conditions have resulted in increased enforcement for infractions of the public health order. Last week, a specific fine of $298 was put in place for not wearing a mask in indoor public places, as required under current public health orders. As of early this week, 28 tickets have been issued for the offence.
In continued enforcement, 79 warnings and 95 tickets were issued last week between Nov. 16 to 22. This includes nine $5,000 tickets to business, and 55 tickets costing individuals $1,296. Three band bylaw tickets were also issued by the Manitoba First Nations Police Service. A total of $126,082 in fines were issued last week, up from $49,992 the week prior.
The province is also providing an update on enforcement related to a large demonstration held in Steinbach on Nov. 14. To date, 16 tickets have been sworn and more are expected to receive tickets as the investigation continues. One person who attended a subsequent event at the Legislative Building in Winnipeg on Nov. 21 was identified and served with a ticket for their participation in the earlier event.
Enforcement officials are also investigating a large gathering for a church service in Steinbach that occurred over the weekend. One individual received a $1,296 ticket and more tickets for other participants are expected as the investigation continues.
Since enforcement efforts began in April, a total of 388 warnings and 307 tickets have been issued, resulting in more than $390,000 in fines to businesses and individuals.
Almost 3,300 personnel across various agencies are empowered to enforce public health orders. This includes RCMP, law enforcement agencies, provincial employees and municipal partners.