The City of Winnipeg says some city services will resume during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The announcement Thursday came a day after provincial health officials unveiled plans to begin reopening Manitoba’s economy during the pandemic, with the first phase starting May 4.
Mayor Brian Bowman said Thursday the city wasn’t given advanced notice on what the province’s plans would include, and city staff worked through the night Wednesday to start implementing as many of the changes as possible.
“There was no meaningful consultation on how this would affect the city’s operations and we learned the final details through the press conference yesterday,” said Bowman.
“With May 4th only a few days away, there will be some parts that we will be able to operationalize in time and some that we won’t.”
“I just ask for everyone’s patience as we do our best to respond to the time-frame that we learned yesterday.”
On Wednesday, the province unveiled a phased approach to reopening Manitoba’s economy amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The province said the first phase will involve the resumption of some medical services and the reopening of some non-essential businesses.
That means Winnipeg retail businesses, hair salons, museums, galleries and libraries will be allowed to open Monday, if they choose to do so, with restrictions in place.
Restaurants will also be allowed to open limited patio operations as well as walk-up services.
Jason Shaw, head of Winnipeg’s emergency operations centre said city staff will work over the weekend to process registrations for restaurants and bars wanting to open their patios Monday.
The process will allow restaurants and bars to set up temporary patio spaces until May 31.
After that the city will re-evaluate the temporary patios, making sure they continue to align with the province’s plan, and eventually restaurants and bars will have to apply for permanent spaces, Shaw said.
The province’s announcement Wednesday came a week after the city announced it would cut Winnipeg Transit service and layoff more than 250 bus drivers amid a sharp drop in ridership.
Those cost-cutting measures are to go into effect starting May 4.
Bowman said the city isn’t back away from those plans despite the province’s loosening of rules.
He said transit will be monitoring bus ridership as more people get back to work, and increase the number of buses in service if social distancing can’t be appropriately observed.
“If it was back to full business that would put pressure and we’ll obviously monitor for increases to the transit service,” said Bowman.
“The (transit) service demands were reduced by about 70 per cent and we ultimately reduced the service by about 30 per cent so there’s a pretty large buffer.”
While libraries can open Monday under the provincial guidelines, Shaw said the city won’t move to open them in Winnipeg immediately, although they are working towards it, he added.
“We are carefully weighing options that balance the health and safety of our staff and our patrons at these facilities,” he said.
“This plan will take a bit more time to be fully developed.”
Shaw said recreation centres, pools, and arenas will also remain closed.
That means the 674 non-permanent city staff working at city-owned and -operated rec centres, pools, arenas and libraries who were laid off April 25 will remain out of work for now, said Shaw.
The city says city-owned play structures and picnic shelters will open Monday, as will skate parks, tennis courts, basketball courts, and athletic fields.
But the city warns Winnipeggers that sports fields are to be used only for non-contact sports, and that users must adhere to social distancing and cannot gather in groups of more than 10.
Community ambassadors and bylaw enforcement officers will continue their work — including enforcing social distancing orders on city-owned property, said Bowman.
City-owned golf courses Kildonan Park, Crescent Drive, and Harbour View will also open Monday under provincial guidelines, including pre-screening golfers by phone, limiting golfers to one per motorized cart or two per household, and closing ball-washing stations, among other measures.
Bookings at the courses will be accepted starting Friday at 9 a.m., said Shaw, who added Windsor Park Golf Course will have a delayed opening due to flooding.
With the coming changes Bowman said it’s important Winnipeggers remain vigilant against the virus.
“We are continuing to weather the storm and we are not through it yet,” said Bowman.
“COVID-19 is still in our community and we want to make sure that we are doing everything we can — and what we’ve been doing — to flatten the curve.”
The province said Wednesday that Phase 2 of its reopening plan will not start until June 1 at the earliest and is expected to see additional personal services like nail salons open as well as dine-in services at restaurants.
The province said future phases will be implemented slowly as guidelines are developed.
Public gathering sizes will be increased, and some businesses will be able to fully open. Others, like bars, pools and spas, movie theatres and indoor recreational facilities such as local gyms, will also slowly reopen, and travel restrictions will be eased, the province said Wednesday.
There are no dates available for future phases.
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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