Manitoba is tightening public health orders meant to curb the spread of COVID-19 amid surging case numbers.
At a rare 6 p.m. press conference Friday Manitoba’s chief public health officer, Dr. Brent Roussin, said changes will go into effect on Sunday morning and last until at least May 30.
Under the new rules restaurants, bars, and patios will be closed to in-person dining, and gyms, fitness centres, museums, libraries, and day camps will also will be forced to close. Outdoor gatherings that include people from multiple households will be limited to a maximum of five people.
“Right now case numbers are far too high and the strain on our health system is rapidly increasing,” said Roussin said in a government release.
“I urge all Manitobans to do everything they can to reduce transmission of the virus – follow the orders, stay home as much as possible, reduce the number of contacts you have and wear masks when you are around others from outside your household.”
Roussin said restaurants will still be able to provide take-out and delivery under the new rules.
Further changes will see indoor community, cultural and religious gatherings prohibited and personal services such as estheticians, barbers, salons and tanning salons closed.
Retail stores, markets and garden centres will be allowed to remain open, but at 10 per cent capacity, or 100 people, whichever is lower. Malls can stay open with capacity capped at 10 per cent.
For now, schools will remain open, but Roussin said indoor sports and recreation, including after-school activities, will close. Roussin said there would be more information on schools “in the near future.”
Dance, theatre, and music schools, though, will have to close under the new orders, and Roussin said outdoor sports and recreation activities will have a maximum of five participants and organized team games will not be permitted.
The government also promised Friday to increase penalties for people who repeatedly break the rules.
Fines for individuals that currently range from $298 to $1,296 will be doubled for a second or subsequent offence, Premier Brian Pallister said.
“There is a small selfish minority of people that aren’t doing their part. And in doing so, they are putting the health of themselves and others at risk,” Pallister said.
Those who refuse to pay can have their wages garnisheed and be blocked from renewing their driver’s licence.
Manitoba has seen its COVID-19 numbers spike in recent weeks, and health officials have warned the demand for intensive care beds is approaching what it was during the peak of the second pandemic wave in the winter.
Health officials reported 502 new COVID-19 cases and one death in Manitoba on Friday — the highest one-day case count since December.
“Today’s case numbers are certainly going in that wrong direction and the later part of this week we’ve seen a dramatic rise in cases, and that’s translating into a dramatic rise in ICU numbers,” Roussin said.
“These are some of the highest daily numbers we’ve seen in our 15 months — we have to take these strong actions now to protect our health-care system, to protect Manitobans.”
Earlier in the day Friday health officials warned Manitoba’s ICUs had seen a concerning rise in COVID-19 patients recently, going from an average of one to two admissions connected the virus a day two weeks ago to as many as 10 a day last week.
They say efforts to ramp up health-care capacity are underway, including adding intensive care beds to prepare for a surge in demand.
Under current public health orders stores, museums and churches have been allowed to operate at reduced capacity. Restaurant have been able to have diners inside, but only members of the same household to sit together at indoor tables.
Outdoor public gatherings have been capped at 10 people. Most household social visits are forbidden, with some exceptions for people who live alone.
Opposition parties called on the Pallister government to enact tougher public health orders Thursday after health officials reported 363 cases new infections and four additional deaths.
As of Friday, there were 2,989 active cases in Manitoba, including 1,232 infections confirmed to be variants of concerns, according to provincial data.
Since March 2020, Manitoba has recorded 40,940 cases of COVID-19 and 987 deaths connected with the virus.
–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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