Premier Brian Pallister warns of ongoing coronavirus restrictions in Manitoba

Manitoba premier Brian Pallister said Wednesday most, if not all, of the COVID-19 restrictions in place are likely to remain after current public health orders expire Jan. 8. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister is warning restrictions on business openings and public gatherings in place to curb COVID-19 will continue for some time.

Manitoba has been under strict public health orders since mid-November that have forced non-essential businesses to close, barred public gatherings of more than five people, and forbidden most social visits in private homes.

A public health order that contains the restrictions is set to expire Friday. Pallister said Wednesday most, if not all, of the rules will be extended.

“I don’t think there’s going to be any significant change, to be frank,” he said.

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The measures have paid off with lower case numbers, but it is too early to relax the rules to any great extent, said Dr. Jazz Atwal, acting deputy chief public health officer in Manitoba.

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“Our test-positivity (rate) still is high. Our hospitalization and (intensive care unit) numbers are still high,” Atwal said.

Atwal reported 176 additional COVID-19 cases and 10 deaths Wednesday. Daily case counts have dropped sharply since the fall, but demand for intensive care beds has gone down only slightly.

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Atwal also said the province is waiting for a potential spike in cases from the Christmas period.

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Nearly 60 infections and more than 400 contacts in recent days have been linked to holiday gatherings, he said.

Pallister said there will be more provincial aid for businesses that have been forced to close to the public.

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The province’s last round of help included $5,000 grants to cover a period of several weeks leading up to early January.

“We plan on continuing to make those available as long as is necessary,” he said.

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.

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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.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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