Casinos, bars and bingo halls will be closed for the next two weeks under tighter COVID-19 restrictions coming to the greater Winnipeg area.
Manitoba’s chief public officer of health, Dr. Brent Roussin, says the changes will go into effect starting Monday.
“We’re quite concerned about the direction of cases in the city,” he said before laying out the new rules for the area.
“We know that we can turn the tide quickly, we’ve seen that before.”
Roussin said the tighter restrictions will allow restaurants and lounges to remain open, but capacity will now be capped at 50 per cent. Table sizes must be kept to no more than five people under broader restrictions that bring maximum gathering sizes down from 10 down to five across the board.
“This means that in addition to household members, you can have only five other people at your home,” Roussin said. “It means we must keep our group sizes below five to reduce the number of close contacts and prevent community transmission.”
Retail stores will also have capacity reduced to 50 per cent, Roussin said, and spectator areas at sporting events will be cut to 25 per cent capacity.
Museums, galleries and libraries will also have to operate at 50 per cent capacity.
Roussin said expanded contact tracing will now also be required at museums, theatres, galleries, libraries, and fitness facilities.
Health officials say the measures were prompted by growing community transmission of the novel coronavirus, and data that shows many cases have been connected to people socializing in bars, restaurants and homes.
The Winnipeg region was already under stricter rules than the rest of the province after case numbers started spiking in late summer.
The province moved the city and surrounding area into the orange-level restriction at the end of September, reducing gathering sizes and making masks mandatory in all indoor public places.
Another round of restrictions went into place last week. Bars, pubs and licensed restaurants must close at 11 p.m. Alcohol service must stop an hour earlier.
The province reported 75 new COVID-19 cases Friday — a sharp drop from earlier in the week — and there are were no new deaths for the first time in five days.
Manitoba reported 173 new cases Thursday, 146 new cases Wednesday, and 124 new cases Tuesday.
Roussin said all the new restrictions will be enforced under the law, and the province plans on stepping up enforcement.
“While these rules are serious, there’s more beyond the rules that each of us must do to change our behaviour,” Roussin said.
“We don’t need an order to change our behaviour — we don’t need to wait for restrictions to be in place to change our behaviour — we can act right now.”
“Right now, today, Manitobans can protect themselves and the people around them.”
Per capita, Manitoba now has the highest number of active cases in the country, according to data on Health Canada’s website.
The data shows Manitoba has 112 cases per 100,000 people while the province with the second-highest per capita number, Quebec, has 100 cases per 100,000 people. The Canadian average is 55 per 100,000, according to numbers posted on the site Friday.
–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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