Larger groups can now gather in city-owned parks in Winnipeg amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
At a press conference on Friday, the head of Winnipeg’s emergency operations centre, Jason Shaw, said gatherings of up to 50 people will now be allowed at parks across the city.
“Social distancing is still required while in city-owned parks, however we have amended the order to allow gatherings of up to 50 people,” he said.
The move comes after provincial health officials announced earlier this week that groups of up to 25 people will be able to gather indoors and groups of 50 will be able to gather outdoors starting Friday.
Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief public health officer, said Wednesday that physical-distancing measures must remain in place at public gatherings, and the increased size limits do not mean Manitoba is in the clear on COVID-19.
“It’s not a return to normal,” Roussin said. “We’re still dealing with this virus and we’re still going to need to deal with this virus for some time, so we need to take those precautions.”
Shaw said members of the city’s community service ambassador program — which has seen city staff and bylaw enforcement officers patrolling parks to make sure public health orders are being followed — will continue their work.
As of June 1, the city will also start accepting park bookings and use of street permit bookings for groups of up to 50 people, Shaw said.
He said groups that had previous bookings that had to be cancelled will be given priority to reschedule.
The city is also extending its temporary patio approvals given for restaurants and microbreweries until July 6, Shaw said.
To date, the city has approved 28 temporary patios across the city, he said.
On Thursday the province unveiled a draft plan detailing its second phase for further reopening across Manitoba.
The easing of restrictions will include restaurants and bars opening at 50 per cent capacity, indoor recreation facility access at places like golf courses and limited reopening at public swimming pools, splash pads and fitness facilities.
While the province hasn’t set an official date for the start of the next phase of easing restrictions, in the past, Phase 2 was scheduled for possible implementation on June 1.
Shaw said city officials are going over the province’s draft plan, and more information on the city’s plans going forward will be announced once the province’s plan is finalized and implementation dates are set.
“Resumption of a closed program, process or work function needs to be assessed and planned out — we are embarking on a new normal where the way we were before COVID-19 may never quite be the same again,” he said.
“While we are moving into recovery operations, we will also need to be able to respond quickly to any subsequent waves of COVID-19.”
All city-owned and -operated recreation centres, pools and libraries have been closed since mid-March to help stop the spread of the virus.
Shaw said he hopes to have more information on the reopening of some city services next week.
As for when the province’s second phase of reopening will start, Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister has said that will depend on how the numbers look.
On Friday, provincial health officials announced two new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of probable and confirmed cases in the province to 292.
According to provincial data, the two new cases include a boy under 10 years old and a woman in her 30s, both in Winnipeg.
Health officials said that as of Friday, one COVID-19 patient is in hospital and no one is in intensive care. There are 18 active cases, with 267 now considered resolved. The number of deaths in the province remains at seven.
Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
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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