The Manitoba government is adding teeth to province-wide COVID-19 restrictions, banning gatherings at private residences and limiting retail sales to essential items only.
The changes announced Thursday go into effect starting at 12:01 a.m. Friday.
“The public health orders introduced when Manitoba moved to Critical (red) on the #RestartMB Pandemic Response System were the most restrictive we had introduced since the beginning of this pandemic,” said Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister in a government release.
“We are now at a point where even tighter restrictions are needed to significantly limit social contact in order to protect one another.”
The entire province was put under Level Red restrictions a week ago, closing restaurants, bars, gyms, non-essential retail stores and other facilities.
READ THE PROVINCE’S BACKGROUNDER ON THE ORDER HERE:
But under the rules, many big-box retailers have stayed open, selling everything on their shelves, because part of their inventory includes items listed as essential under provincial health rules.
Under the new rules, the stores can remain open, but will only be allowed to sell essential items to in-person shoppers, and must also limit capacity to 25 per cent, or 250 people, whichever is lower.
While the changes officially start Friday, businesses will have until 12:01 a.m. Saturday to make sure non-essential goods are off limits to the public.
.The Retail Council of Canada said that is still a tight time frame.
“There will be a period of time of understanding precisely what is essential and not essential, even within the defined list that’s been published,” said John Graham, the council’s director of government relations for the Prairies.
Retailers will still be allowed to sell both essential and non-essential items online, by telephone or through delivery or curb-side pickup.
The list of goods considered essential include things like food and groceries, personal care products, prescription drugs, baby products, cleaning supplies, mobility devises, personal protective equipment, pet supplies, and tools and hardware.
The new rules mean the only clothing items allowed for in-person sale are winter jackets, snow pants, underwear, winter headwear, gloves and mitts, socks and winter boots, and clothing for infants.
The list does not include other clothing — such as sweaters and shirts — or sports equipment or consumer electronics.
Gathering size restrictions
Under the stiffer restrictions, gathering sizes at homes, cottages, or other vacation properties will only allow those who live in the house. Gatherings of up to five people, including those from outside the home, had previously been allowed.
Exceptions will be made to allow child-care, health-care and home care services, tutoring services, construction or repairs, or to respond to emergencies.
In addition, exceptions will be made for those who live on their own to have one other person visit their home, the province says.
Groups of more than five people are also prohibited at outdoor public places including the common areas of a multi-unit residence, with the exception of a health-care facility or critical business that adheres to health protection measures, the province says.
The measures are intended to allow for weddings, funerals and baptisms to take place with a capacity limit of five people, according to the province.
“The current trend of COVID-19 cases and wide-spread community transmission is unsustainable and causing significant strain on our health-care system,” said Manitoba’s chief public officer of health, Dr. Brent Roussin.
“I can’t stress enough that Manitobans need to stay home in order to protect themselves and their loved ones, and halt the spread of this deadly virus.
“These new restrictions will help limit social contacts and the opportunity and motivation for Manitobans to leave their homes for non-essential purposes.”
The new rules go into effect along with the level red public health orders put in place last week, and all are scheduled to remain in effect until at least Dec. 11.
Cases rise again, military helping at Opaskwayak Cree Nation
The Progressive Conservative government has already stepped up its enforcement of public health orders.
Earlier this week, Premier Brian Pallister announced a private security firm had been hired to bolster the ranks of police, bylaw officers and others who hand out tickets. It also established a new $298 fine for not wearing a mask in indoor public places.
On Thursday Manitoba health officials reported eight new deaths and 475 new COVID-19 cases.
The new cases bring the total number of lab-confirmed cases in Manitoba to 12,482 and the province’s death toll to 198.
Pallister called on Manitobans to abide by the rules.
“There just aren’t enough police in the world to help you do the right thing … we need everybody onside.”
The second wave of the pandemic has hit especially hard in long-term care homes across the province.
Members of the military were preparing Thursday to help with an outbreak that has infected all 28 residents at the Rod McGillivary Memorial Care Home on the Opaskwayak Cree Nation near The Pas.
“They’ve sent in a reconnaissance team to do an assessment,” Onekanew (Chief) Christian Sinclair said.
“They’re going to augment the staffing … with a couple of nurses and some health-care aides.”
–With files from The Canadian PressView link »