Manitoba’s premier says the province is looking at moving into the next phase of reopening amid COVID-19 — including increasing gathering sizes, opening casinos to half-capacity, and lifting restrictions on retail and indoor recreation sites — as early as this weekend.
Brian Pallister said Tuesday the province is looking for public feed back on the plan, which could see the fourth phase of reopening kick in starting as early as July 25.
“Thanks to the efforts of all Manitobans, we continue to lead in recovery and have among the lowest COVID-19 test positivity rates in the country,” said Pallister in a release.
“That means we can continue our careful, balanced plan to restart our economy, give people back their lives and get Manitobans back to work.”
The province’s draft plan for Phase Four reopening includes:
- increasing gathering sizes to 75 people indoors and 250 outdoors, where members of the public are reasonably able to maintain a separation of at least two metres from others, except for brief exchanges. Larger group sizes would be allowed where distinct groups of 75 or 250 can be separated to prevent contact with other groups.
- increasing visitation at personal care and long-term care facilities, ensuring a balanced approach to visitation is required which mitigates the risk of COVID-19 transmission within sites. Each resident or designate would be able to identify two support people who would be able to visit the resident’s room indoors. Outdoor visits would be allowed for a reasonable number of visitors (up to four people) per resident, depending on availability of space. Each site will need to develop specific plans for enabling outdoor/indoor visitation by visitors to ensure the safety of residents within the facilities.
- adjusting restrictions for faith-based gatherings, pow wows and other cultural and spiritual events, as well as resuming live theatrical performances and movie theatres. No cohorts will be required and capacity will increase to 50 per cent of the site’s capacity or 500 people, whichever is lower. Adequate physical distancing between individuals and households must continue to be provided.
- opening casinos, with a maximum occupancy of 50 per cent of the site’s capacity. Physical distancing, and frequent and enhanced cleaning and wiping of surfaces are required.
- lifting occupancy restrictions in all retail settings and indoor recreation sites except for gyms, fitness centres, martial arts, gymnastic clubs and yoga studios. These sites must remain at occupancy levels of 50 per cent or one person per 10 square metres, whichever is lower.
- allowing closer distancing at therapeutic health businesses and personal service businesses such as hair and nail salons where a non-permeable barrier is installed.
- allowing counter walk-up service in bars, beverage rooms and brew pubs provided non-permeable barriers and hand sanitizer is available for patrons, along with more frequent cleaning and wiping of services.
The province is also looking at removing the 14-day, self-isolation travel restriction for domestic travel within Canada, the premier added.
Currently, anyone entering Manitoba from the Atlantic provinces and Quebec, as well as Ontario communities east of Terrace Bay — a small community on Lake Superior — are required to self-isolate for two weeks.
Pallister said Manitoba is the only province outside the Atlantic region with such a rule for domestic visitors, and doing away with it can be done safely.
“We’ve demonstrated that we have the discipline to live with each other while maintaining … distancing, while doing our hand-washing, while keeping each other safe,” Pallister said.
“I would say to those who are afraid, I’m afraid too, I’m afraid too. But I’m not going to let fear rule my life and I’d ask you not to let fear rule yours.”
Manitobans can weigh in on the proposed changes at the province’s website and a telephone town hall meeting is planned for Wednesday.
On Monday the premier announced the province will make a bid for Winnipeg to be a hub city for a shortened CFL season amid COVID-19, should the league go ahead with play later this year.
He said the province is committing $2.5 million to help encourage the CFL to choose Winnipeg.
Pallister said the money will come from an $8 million event attraction strategy, aiming to “maximize the potential” of destinations in both Winnipeg and rural Manitoba to host “large-scale meetings, conventions, and events.”
Manitoba has recorded 366 confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases to date — a lower rate than most other provinces. Seven people have died and 41 cases remained active Tuesday.
The province had dropped to one active case on July 13, but has seen an outbreak on a few Hutterite colonies in recent days and a couple of positive tests among international travellers.
The Opposition New Democrats said the government should hire more nurses and child-care workers as more businesses open up, and also consider a greater focus on masks.
“The province should start encouraging Manitobans (to) wear masks as a reasonable tradeoff to keep families safe as additional reopening measures are implemented,” NDP Leader Wab Kinew said in a written statement.
Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont criticized the loosening of interprovincial travel rules.
“The Premier seems to think that Manitoba is somehow immune from COVID-19. We have not beaten it. We have only kept it at bay,” Lamont said.
–With files from The Canadian Press
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. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus. In some provinces and municipalities across the country, masks or face coverings are now mandatory in indoor public spaces.
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