Manitoba is moving to loosen more of its COVID-19 public health orders as the province’s case numbers continue to improve.
The latest new rules, which include removing some limits on outdoor gathering sizes and restaurant capacity, will go into effect at 12:01 a.m. Friday.
Manitoba’s chief public health officer, Dr. Brent Roussin, said the changes come as case numbers and test positivity rates continue to trend downward.
“That’s why we’re able to begin to look at other options to cautiously reopen services,” he said.
Starting Friday, people will be allowed to have another entire household visit in their home, and outdoor public gatherings can increase to 10 people from five.
Capacity limits in stores and restaurants, as well as for personal services, will double to 50 per cent. Seating at restaurant tables will still be limited to members of the same household.
Indoor religious services will be allowed operate at 25 per cent capacity instead of the current 10 per cent.
Indoor arcades and outdoor amusement parks will be allowed reopen with capacity limits. Some facilities, such as casinos, bingo halls and concert venues, must continue to remain closed.
Licensed establishments other than casinos can also reopen their video lottery terminals, as long as they were are metres apart or separated by physical barriers.
Professional theatre groups, dance companies, symphonies, and operas can resume rehearsals, Roussin said, as long as they’re not accessible to the public. Day camps for kids can also open and operate at 25 per cent capacity.
Indoor recreation and sporting facilities like gyms, fitness centres, rinks, courts, fields, ranges, studios, clubs, pools, and centres, can open at 25 per cent capacity.
Those using gyms, fitness centres, and pools must continue to wear a mask while working out and in all areas of the centre, with the exception of those in a swimming pool, Roussin said, adding previous requirements for individual training or one-on-one instruction, have been removed.
The Opposition said the government should expand the two-households rule to restaurants.
“I wonder why a grandparent couldn’t sit with their grandkids at a restaurant, if, in fact, they are part of that same (two-) household bubble,” NDP Leader Wab Kinew said.
The changes will go into effect across the province and will be in place until March 25, Roussin said.
“Later in March we will continue to evaluate whether we can stay at this level or continue to cautiously reopen,” Roussin said, adding Manitobans will need to remain cautious.
“We shouldn’t interpret these reopenings as a reduction in our risk — we were at this place before — we know that if we let our guards down, we’re going to see transmission of this virus again.
“We all have to be on guard and continue to practice those fundamentals.”
Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister also announced a new, third round of grant funding for businesses impacted by COVID-19 Tuesday.
He said the government is increasing the Manitoba Bridge Grant budget to $215 million and extending the program’s application deadline to March 31.
Eligible small and medium-sized businesses, not-for-profits and charities that received a first and second bridge grant payment, each worth up to $5,000, will automatically receive a third equal payment beginning as early as Friday, the province said in a release.
New program applicants will be eligible for a one-time immediate payment to a maximum of $15,000.
Health officials reported 64 new COVID-19 cases and two deaths Tuesday.
The province’s case count has dropped sharply since a severe spike in the fall when Manitoba led all the provinces in the per capita rate of new infections. The strain on intensive care units has eased and the province’s five-day test positivity rate has dropped from highs of around 13 per cent to four per cent as of Tuesday.
–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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