Orange level maybe next – have your say

The Manitoba government is seeking feedback from Manitobans on plans to move to the ‘restricted’ (orange) level on the Pandemic Response System and continue to restore safely services and activities while balancing the needs of the health-care system, Premier Brian Pallister and Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief provincial public health officer, announced on Thursday, March 18.

“I want to commend Manitobans for their willingness and their diligence in following the public health orders in place to protect our most vulnerable and ensure our health-care system is there for all Manitobans when they need it, now and well after this pandemic,” said Pallister. “Thanks to Manitobans’ efforts we are once again in a position to consider loosening additional restrictions as we learn to live this virus. As a government, we are focused on creating an environment for a sustained reopening of our economy so businesses can safely reopen and stay open.”

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The province has launched a survey on https://EngageMB.ca and invites Manitobans to share feedback on their priorities for potential easing of the current level ‘red’ or ‘critical’ COVID-19 restrictions. The survey asks questions about Manitobans’ perspectives on the risk of the virus and their comfort levels with different activities. In addition, people will be asked their thoughts on the timing, such as if changes should happen sooner, or wait until after the Easter and Passover holidays.

Possible changes include increasing outside gathering limits, expanding capacity at retail stores and religious services, expanding indoor restaurant dining criteria to include a household and their designated visitors, allowing organized team games at indoor sporting facilities, and removing the requirement that youth must wear a mask while taking part in indoor sporting activities, such as hockey or soccer.

In addition, other changes include enabling indoor theatres, indoor concert halls, casino and gaming centres to open at limited capacity levels and removing the requirement to self-isolate for 14 days for interprovincial/domestic travellers who travel for business reasons and do not have symptoms.

For more details on each option and to provide feedback, visit https://engagemb.ca/restartmb-pandemic-response-system.

Roussin noted hospitalizations and intensive care unit admissions have trended in the right direction, and government continues to ramp up its vaccine efforts to immunize more vulnerable Manitobans, as vaccines become available from the federal government.

“While we expect to see cases increase as we continue to reopen the economy, we have to accept that COVID-19 is here to stay for many years. This means we all need to learn to live with this virus and find ways to assess our risk without having to implement long-term lockdowns,” said Roussin. “That is why it is crucial Manitobans continue to follow the fundamentals and to avoid the activities that are known to cause the greatest risk – crowded places, closed spaces and close-contact settings – to ensure the health-care system doesn’t get overwhelmed and Manitobans can access the care they need, whether for COVID-19 or other medical needs.”

However, Roussin also noted that public health officials are not considering changes to indoor or outdoor gathering sizes at personal residences at this time, noting that close, prolonged contact has a higher risk of transmitting the virus.

“I know that Easter and Passover are coming up soon, and that people will want to gather with their loved ones,” said Roussin. “But we all saw what happened after Thanksgiving last fall – case numbers rose dramatically and we ended up in lockdown for Christmas. We don’t want to see a repeat of that happening again, just before summer.”

This survey builds on prior steps taken to connect directly with Manitobans throughout the pandemic on public health orders, pandemic planning and more. Since April 2020, nearly 500,000 participants have engaged with the Manitoba government on COVID-19 issues through telephone town halls, online surveys, public opinion research and other engagement opportunities on EngageMB.

 For more information on Manitoba’s current pandemic response, visit www.manitoba.ca/COVID-19.

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