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Winnipeg to close playgrounds, suspend parking tickets amid growing COVID-19 crisis

WATCH: Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman and Jason Shaw, manager of the City of Winnipeg's emergency operations centre, will provide details on the response to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The City of Winnipeg is closing all city-owned playgrounds, suspending permits for special events, and foregoing parking tickets for time limit violations on residential streets during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mayor Brian Bowman announced the changes — and said he is asking council to consider calling a state of local emergency — Friday, just a few hours after health officials reported the province’s first death from COVID-19, a woman from Winnipeg in her 60s who had been in hospital.

“Today we’re grieving the first local loss of life as a result of COVID-19 — we’re in this together and we’re grieving together,” Bowman said at press conference, offering condolences to the woman’s friends and family on behalf of all Winnipeggers.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Manitoba announces first death, public gatherings to be limited to 10

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“The tragic news of this loss is a stark reminder of the seriousness of the global pandemic that we’re facing together, and it reinforces, for me, how essential it is for us as Winnipeggers to diligently follow the direction of our healthcare and emergency professionals.

“Our community will get through this by remaining vigilant and supporting each other.”

As well as announcing changes to parking, parks and special events, Bowman said he is calling a special meeting of council for next Friday morning for councillors to consider a report to implement a property and business tax referral program.

He said he will also ask councillors to consider declaring a state of local emergency under the Emergency Measures Act at the special meeting.

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He said the move would allow the city to protect essential services, crack down on price-gauging for vital supplies, potentially allow the city to use private buildings like hotels to house vulnerable citizens, and restrict access to areas of the city that may be contaminated, during the pandemic.

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“I believe this is a necessary measure to support the efforts of our residents, the provincial government, and the healthcare sector in our collective fight against COVID-19,” he said of calling a state of local emergency.

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As for the changes announced Friday, Bowman said the suspension of permits for special events and festivals in the city will be in place until the end of June.

And while city-owned parks and dog parks will remain open, amenities like play structures and picnic shelters will be closed as of Saturday until further notice in an effort to stop the spread of the virus.

The city said anyone using parks should practice safe social distancing.

At the press conference, Bowman also announced the city is working with local BIZ groups to establish temporary “curbside pick-up locations” in select locations throughout the Downtown and the Exchange District.

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The spots will allow customers and delivery drivers to park for free for 15 minutes at a time while they pick up food or retail items at nearby businesses, he said.

In addition to suspending parking time restrictions in residential neighbourhoods, the city will also be offering one-hour free parking at all parking meters in the city.

All other parking restrictions will still be in effect, the city said.

READ MORE: Top 2 WRHA executives leave the country in midst of COVID-19 outbreak; now in self-isolation

Bowman said the changes to parking rules will go into effect starting Saturday.

The province announced three more cases of COVID-19 Friday, bringing Manitoba’s total confirmed and probable case count to 39 as of Friday morning.

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus outbreak: Manitoba confirms first death from COVID-19' Coronavirus outbreak: Manitoba confirms first death from COVID-19
Coronavirus outbreak: Manitoba confirms first death from COVID-19 – Mar 27, 2020

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

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Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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