The City of Winnipeg closed all city-run outdoor recreation amenities Tuesday in preparation for a province-wide COVID-19 lockdown coming later this week.
In a release the city said all city-owned and operated playgrounds, skate parks, and recreational sports fields will be closed effective immediately. Winter-based recreation sties like toboggan slides and outdoor rinks will also remain closed.
While the city says city parks and dog parks will remain open, Winnipeggers are reminded to observe proper social distancing and to limit group sizes to no more than five people.
Earlier in the day Manitoba health officials announced Level Red, or critical, COVID-19 restrictions are coming province-wide starting Thursday.
“This is a measure that we will, like we’ve done in the past, work to support and implement from a municipal perspective,” Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman said of the provincial lockdown.
“We know that these measures have been needed, it was very clear that we were moving in the wrong direction for some time, and I’m hopeful that this measure will help us once again flatten the curve.”
Under the new rules non-essential retail outlets will be limited to curbside pickup and delivery, churches will not be allowed to hold in-person services, and people will be forbidden from social gatherings with anyone from outside their household.
Bars, restaurants, museums and theatres will have to close and recreational activities will be suspended. The restrictions are expected to be in place for four week and are to be reviewed as case numbers change.
At a Tuesday morning press conference Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief public officer of health, said the province-wide restrictions will remain in place for at least the next four weeks, but then said they’d be in place for at least the next two weeks at a second press conference later in the day.
At the second media briefing Roussin clarified that he would want to see the province’s test-positivity rate drop below 3 per cent, a dramatic decline in new case numbers, and a health care system no longer under strain before lifting the orders.
“I think we should plan for four weeks, but absolutely a minimum of two weeks,” he said.
Manitoba’s five-day test positivity rate was at 10.6 per cent while Winnipeg’s rate rose to 10 per cent with 216 new COVID-19 cases reported Tuesday.
Jay Shaw, manager of the city’s emergency operations centre, said the city is expecting the provincial orders to be in place for more than two weeks.
City-run facilities including indoor pools, arenas, recreation facilities and libraries have been closed since late October when the province put tighter restrictions than had been in place across the province in an effort to curb rising cases counts in the city.
The city says it will be enforcing the latest closures announced Tuesday.
Bowman says since Nov. 6, 114 facilities have been inspected by city by-law officers enforcing the province’s COVID-19 health orders relating to closures, occupancy limits, and physical distancing requirements.
The city says two people have received warnings for not wearing facemasks, and one business has been ticketed for not obeying orders to close.
Bowman reminded Winnipeggers 311 is open 24-hours a day, seven days a week, to report violations of provincial health orders.
Shaw said the city has no immediate plans to reduce Winnipeg Transit under the new provincial health code restrictions, although he did say ridership has dropped over the over the last few weeks.
“If you look at past practice as to what happened in the spring, we may see a dip in ridership as we go through code red,” Shaw said.
“But we will do our absolute best to maintain that service … to make sure that the service demands that we’re providing meets the needs.”
Shaw also said there he had new information to provide Tuesday on the possibility of layoffs for city employees coming out of the latest round of restrictions.
According to provincial data there are currently 3,922 active COVID-19 cases in Winnipeg and the surrounding area with 134 people in hospital and 14 in ICU.
Since March 85 Winnipeggers have died from COVID-19.
–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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