Manitoba’s next Feb. 12 cautious reopening

Following feedback from Manitobans and advice from public health leaders, the province is loosening a variety of restrictions while ensuring protocols are in place to protect Manitobans from the risks of COVID-19, Premier Brian Pallister and Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief provincial health officer, announced Tuesday, Feb. 9.

While the dine-in experience is returning, just in time for Valentine Day, it's limited to family/household groups and there will be a sign-in sheet. COVID tracing has required name and adress sheets for attendees at various businesses orgatherings all along. Amid questions from the press about the process of ensuring diners are, in fact, householders, Dr. Roussin stated the orders are "based upon reasonableness", and contact tracing sheets provide that safeguard. For infractions of health orders, cheaters would be liable to a fine as would the operator of the restaurant.

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Premier Pallister pointed out that the restaurant industry is eager to have this as the first of steps forward. If outbreaks occurr and contacts show up through restaurant dining, that could mean a step backward.

The press noted that today a court case is challenging the constitutionality of the health orders. Dr. Roussin had no comment since the matter is before the court. Pallister remarked that COVID is, itself, unconstitutional and indicated it is a fight that all Manitobans are engaged in.

New since the previous health orders, Pallister said, winter is now here (extreme cold), the variant has arrived in Manitoba (just one case to date), and the vaccine is not (referring to expected doses not delivered to the province.) So although the statistics show Manitoba is in a good place, other factors are not in our favour. The province is also stepping up screening for the variant.

The prmiere noted that while Manitoba ranks second in percentage vaccinated, Canada ranks about 34th in world percentages.

But changes in the health orders will mean more sporting events can take place among other good news.

“Today is another big day for Manitobans, especially for our local business owners who are eager to safely reopen their doors, and provide the goods and services that Manitobans have missed the past few months,” said Pallister. “With fewer restrictions, we must remain cautious, in fact, even more cautious. In the absence of COVID-19 vaccines from the federal government, following the fundamentals is how we continue to protect each other and save lives.”

The orders will formalize the following changes for all of Manitoba, replacing the General COVID-19 Prevention Orders made on Jan. 28 and the Northern Manitoba COVID-19 Prevention Orders made on Feb. 1, 2021. The orders will take effect at 12:01 a.m. on Feb. 12 and will last for three weeks.

The orders include the following changes, with further pandemic safety measures in place:

• allowing restaurants and licensed premises to reopen at 25 per cent capacity with patron groups limited to members of the same household only;

• allowing outdoor sport facilities to reopen for casual sports as well as organized practices and games, with multi-team tournaments not permitted;

• allowing gyms, fitness centres and yoga studios to reopen at 25 per cent capacity;

• allowing indoor sporting facilities such as rinks, gymnastic clubs and martial arts studios to reopen at 25 per cent capacity for individual instruction only;

• allowing places of worship to hold regular religious services if a service does not exceed 10 per cent of usual capacity or 50 people, whichever is lower;

• allowing self-help groups for persons dealing with addictions or other behaviours to hold meetings at 25 per cent capacity of the premise where meetings take place;

• allowing museums, art galleries and libraries to operate at 25 per cent capacity;

• allowing personal service businesses, such as those providing pedicures, electrolysis, cosmetic application, tanning, tattooing or massage services to reopen at 25 per cent capacity;

• allowing up to 10 people to attend a wedding in addition to the officiant and a photographer or videographer;

• allowing photographers and videographers to offer services to individual clients or those residing in the same household in addition to providing services at weddings, with the exception of visiting client homes; and

• allowing the film industry to operate fully with physical distancing and other safety measures in place.

“These new orders allow us to resume more activities and services we enjoy, but we cannot let our guard down yet,” said Roussin. “We will continue to carefully monitor COVID-19 developments and case numbers to ensure we protect each other and our health-care system. Manitobans need to continue to follow the fundamentals at all times including staying home when sick, frequent handwashing and wearing masks. We all have a part to play in keeping our COVID-19 curve down so we can continue making measured progress towards getting back to the things we love.”

The new orders also bring the entire province under the same restrictions, where the northern region had previously been under separate orders to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the region.

Under the new orders, northern Manitoba will see the changes listed above in addition to the restrictions in place over the last three weeks for the rest of the province including:

• household visitor restrictions of up to two designated people,

• visits of five people plus members of a household on an outdoor private property,

• retail stores open at 25 per cent capacity or 250 people maximum with adequate physical distancing, and

• non-regulated health services, hair salons and barbershops open with 25 per cent capacity and adequate physical distancing.

 

Since Feb. 4, over 33,000 responses were provided on the proposed changes to the orders. Feedback indicated:

• 65 per cent of respondents felt somewhat or very comfortable going to restaurants;

• 57 per cent of respondents felt somewhat or very comfortable going to the gym or to a yoga studio; and

• opening food services was ranked the highest priority for respondents, followed by opening personal services like nail salons and tattoo parlors, allowing gyms to reopen for individual training and allowing outdoor organized outdoor sports to resume for games or practices.

 

Final survey results will be posted on the EngageMB website once compiled.

For up-to-date information on COVID-19 in Manitoba, visit www.manitoba.ca/COVID19.

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