Most Manitobans will be able to get their hair cut, buy non-essential items in stores and have more visitors in their homes under changes coming to COVID-19 public health orders.
Premier Brian Pallister and Manitoba’s chief public health officer, Dr. Brent Roussin said Thursday the province will ease some COVID-19 restrictions in all areas except the northern health region when current orders expire Friday at midnight.
“We recognize the significant sacrifices all Manitobans have made throughout this pandemic and especially in the last two months, to protect themselves, their loved ones and their community,” said Pallister in a government release.
“Thanks to their willingness, compassion and dedication to follow the strict public health orders, we are now in a position to cautiously and gradually reduce some restrictions, while ensuring we continue to protect and safeguard Manitoba lives.
“Manitobans have earned this day and Manitobans now have the opportunity to earn such days in the future.”
Under the new rules, starting Saturday, non-essential retail stores will be allowed to open at 25 per cent capacity and a list of items previously considered non-essential — and not allowed to be sold — has been eliminated.
Barber shops, hair salons, reflexologists and some other personal services will also be able to open.
A ban on social visits in homes is also being eased to allow two designated people (family or friends) to visit a household. Outdoor visits of up to five people plus members of a household on an outdoor private property will also be allowed.
Funerals will also now be allowed to have up to 10 people in addition to the officiant under clear COVID-19 protection protocols.
The new health orders will be in place for at least the next three weeks, except for the northern region including Churchill, which will continue under existing restrictions because COVID-19 case numbers continue to be high, Roussin said.
Health officials reported 198 new COVID-19 cases and five additional deaths Thursday. More than half the new cases were northern residents.
Manitoba’s numbers, including the number of people in hospital and the percentage of people testing positive, have dropped since a spike in the fall.
Since March the province has reported 28,089 cases and 793 Manitobans with the coronavirus have died.
The Retail Council of Canada welcomed the news that some restrictions would be eased.
“We’re relieved by today’s announcement that follows over two months of very severe restrictions that have left retailers limping along using curbside delivery where possible,” council spokesman John Graham said.
While non-essential stores can reopen, some other businesses, including gyms, bars and nail salons, must remain closed. Restaurants will continue to be limited to takeout and delivery.
With the demand for intensive care unit beds still running above pre-pandemic capacity, Roussin said special care must be taken when it comes to places where people gather.
“Venues that have prolonged, indoor contact — crowded places, enclosed spaces — those are where a lot of the risk (of virus transmission) lies,” Roussin said.
Premier Brian Pallister has left the door open to providing more supports for businesses as the closures and capacity limits continue, although did not provide specifics.
Pallister said he is trusting Manitobans to follow the rules, and made special mention of household visits.
“We don’t have enough enforcement people to check every household,” Pallister said.
“We’re asking you to follow the rules because that’s how we’ll keep each other safe.”
–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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