Winnipeg’s mayor is renewing calls for Winnipeggers to stay home during the COVID-19 pandemic, as provincial officials confirm the virus is spreading through community transmission in Manitoba.
At an afternoon press conference Brian Bowman said while most are heeding health officials’ warnings, he’s alarmed to see some Winnipeggers are still getting together in public during the pandemic.
“With news today confirming community transmission, it’s incredibly important for all of our citizens to respect the measures put in place by the provincial government on limiting gatherings to no more than 10 and to practice physical distancing at all times,” he said.
“To those who are not respecting those measures I want to say this: these measures are not just for your safety, these are for the safety of everyone in our city.
“We’re all in this together and the actions of some could have very serious impacts on the rest of our community.”
Earlier in the day Wednesday provincial health officials said they are seeing “early signs” of community transmission in Manitoba before announcing 24 new cases overnight.
As of Wednesday, Manitoba had 127 probable and confirmed cases of COVID-19, said Dr. Brent Roussin, the province’s chief public health officer.
One person has died, four people are in hospital and four more have recovered.
“Now is the time to stay home. Stay home. Stay home,” said Roussin.
While provinces like Saskatchewan have said law enforcement agencies can levy stiff fines against those caught violating COVID-19 safety orders, so far Manitoba has not announced such measures.
Bowman said he would fully support tougher enforcement, but wouldn’t elaborate on what the city’s role might be in enforcing the rules.
‘This is not the time to get together’
In an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 the city has closed down amenities like picnic areas and playgrounds at city-owned parks and this week announced all city-owned athletic fields, basketball courts, tennis courts, baseball diamonds, and skate parks won’t open this spring.
And while the city isn’t physically closing the sites, Jason Shaw, head of the city’s emergency operations centre, called on Winnipeggers to stay away from the sites during the pandemic.
“We are asking you — every member of our community — to respect the closures of these amenities,” he said.
“This is not the time to get together with your friends, this is not the time to meet up at parks, and this is not the time for a pick-up game of street hockey.
“This is the time to practice social distancing, to stay home, and to prevent further community transmission.”
This Friday council will hold a special meeting to look at implementing a property and business tax referral program and consider declaring a state of local emergency under the Emergency Measures Act.
Shaw said Wednesday declaring a state of emergency would allow the city to do things like limit access to certain areas and have buildings secured in order to provide services during the pandemic.
“It gives a host of powers for us to be able to adapt and take a look at the challenges that are going to start facing us as the days and weeks come,” he explained.
“When we look at what’s happening in other cities and other provinces, we know that there’s going to be more work that’s needed by the city and province and we want to be prepared.”
Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
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.
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