Manitoba will further loosen restrictions amid COVID-19 starting this weekend, but the plan has been scaled back after concerns were raised by Manitobans, the province’s health minister said Thursday.
On Tuesday Premier Brian Pallister released a draft plan for the province’s fourth phase of reopening from the initial clampdown as the pandemic hit Canada, asking for feedback from Manitobans.
The plan would have see casinos and movie theatres reopen at 50 per cent, caps on public gatherings raised, visits to personal care homes expanded, and restrictions on inter-provincial travellers lifted.
On Thursday Cameron Friesen announced details of the newly updated plan, which is still slated to go into effect starting Saturday.
He said a proposal to lift a self-isolation requirement for travellers from Eastern Canada will not go ahead for now. Plans to increase limits on public gatherings — to 75 people from 50 indoors and to 250 from 100 outdoors — are also off the table for the time being.
Casinos, cinemas and theatres will be allowed to reopen Saturday as planned, but at 30 per cent capacity instead of 50, Friesen said.
Items moving forward in the fourth phase include:
- maintaining current site capacity at 30 per cent for faith-based services, pow wows, but eliminating the need for sub-groups (cohorts);
- allowing stage performances and opening movie theatres to a maximum capacity of 30 per cent of the site, up to a maximum of 500 people;
- allowing casinos to open at a maximum of 30 per cent of the site’s capacity; and
- allowing retail businesses and indoor recreation sites to use non-permeable barriers when distances of two metres can not be maintained.
Changes originally proposed that have been deferred include:
- proposed changes to indoor and outdoor gathering sizes;
- relaxing of self-isolation requirements for those travelling from eastern and southern Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada; and
- walk-up counter service in bars, beverage rooms, brew pubs, microbreweries and distilleries
Health officials say possible adjustments to the reopening may be made on a week-by-week basis, depending on the province’s public health situation.
Friesen said the changes come after more than 50,000 Manitobans weighed in on the draft plan over the last two days, both through an online survey and a telephone town hall held Wednesday evening.
“While Manitoba’s response to COVID-19 has been led by scientific evidence and the advice of our public health professionals, we need to keep listening to what Manitobans are ready to accept and support at each phase of our recovery efforts,” Friesen said in a government release.
“I want to thank Manitobans for their valuable input and commitment to keep the virus at bay as we continue to take a balanced and measured approach at restarting our economy.”
Dr. Brent Roussin, the province’s chief public health officer said keeping the pandemic numbers low requires public support for the government’s rules.
“Our success is because Manitobans are onboard and we clearly heard that they weren’t going to be onboard for this,” he said, referring to the proposed end of self-isolation for travellers from Eastern Canada.
The Opposition New Democrats said the Progressive Conservative government had no choice but to back down under intense public pressure.
“I think it’s great that Manitobans really talked some common sense into this government,” said NDP Leader Wab Kinew.
Health officials announced one new case of COVID-19 Thursday, bringing Manitoba’s total number of lab-confirmed and probable positive cases reported since March to 375.
The new case is a man in his 40s from the east Interlake, officials said.
As of Thursday Manitoba had 49 known active cases including one person in intensive care.
Since March 319 people have recovered from COVID-19 and seven Manitobans have died.
–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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