Based on feedback from Manitobans, concerns over rising variants case numbers and the need to maintain the stability of the health-care system, the Manitoba government is making minor changes to the current public health orders and will remain at the ‘critical’ (red) level on the #RestartMB Pandemic Response System, while continuing to balance the needs of the health-care system, Premier Brian Pallister and Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief provincial health officer, announced today.
“At every step of the way throughout this pandemic, we’ve endeavored to reach out directly to Manitobans to get their input and perspectives on a variety of measures and their comfort level with learning to live with this virus….” said Pallister. “As more Manitobans get back to doing some of the activities they love and have missed over the past few months, it is crucial that we continue to follow the fundamentals and avoid the activities that are known to cause the greatest risk.”
Only a limited number of the options proposed late last week will be implemented in the next round of public health orders. The following changes to public health orders go into effect on Friday, March 26 at 12:01 a.m. and will expire on April 15:
• increasing gathering limits at outdoor public places to 25 from 10 people;
• increasing gathering limits at weddings and funerals to 25 from 10 people;
• maintaining the capacity limits for retail stores at 50 per cent, but expanding the in-store limits to a 500-person capacity, whichever is lower, with other public health measures still in effect; and
• relaxing rules for drive-in events to allow people to leave their vehicles while still observing public health measures.
Roussin noted that changes to indoor or outdoor gathering sizes at personal residences or in restaurants will not be introduced, as prolonged contact has a higher risk of transmitting the virus.
“We are carefully monitoring our hospitalization data and numbers of cases linked to variants of concern to ensure that as we gradually reopen, we continue to have capacity in the system,” said Roussin. “That said, we are going to see more cases and more exposures as we slowly reopen. COVID-19 will be here to stay for awhile, and we need to work together to manage its effects and protect our most vulnerable. We can continue to do this by following the fundamentals including mask wearing, frequent handwashing, staying home when sick and getting vaccinated when eligible.”
Additional changes may be considered after spring break, Passover and Easter if data supports making further reopening efforts, Roussin said.
The new public health orders follow priorities set out by Manitobans in response to the survey launched on March 18 with proposed changes.
Nearly 32,000 responses were provided on the proposals and preliminary results indicated:
• 53 per cent of respondents felt increasing gathering limits at outdoor public places to 25 people is an appropriate next step;
• 48 per cent of respondents felt increasing gathering limits at weddings, funerals and other gatherings to 25 people is an appropriate next step;
• 45 per cent of respondents felt expanding capacity limits for retail stores to 50 per cent or 500 people, whichever is lower, is an appropriate next step;
• respondents indicated that their top priority of the proposed public health changes was increasing gathering limits at an outdoor public place to 25 people; and
• 39 per cent of respondents indicated that bigger changes should wait until after Passover and Easter or later to prevent further spread of COVID-19.
For up-to-date information on COVID-19 in Manitoba, visit www.manitoba.ca/COVID19.