Manitoba’s premier says tighter COVID-19 restrictions will be announced going in to the May long weekend.
At a Thursday morning press conference Brian Pallister said Manitoba’s chief public health officer will be announcing the new restrictions later in the day.
“Case counts spiked after Thanksgiving, case counts spiked after Easter and Spring break — we can’t have the same thing happen after the May long weekend,” Pallister said. “The future’s in our hands.”
Exactly what the new restrictions will look like wasn’t immediately clear, but Pallister said they will “address gatherings as well as staying at home.”
At a press conference later in the day Thursday Dr. Brent Roussin said the changes would see social gatherings between members of different households banned as well as only one person from a household allowed to enter a business, with an exception made for caregivers.
The additional public health order changes will be in effect until May 26, the province said.
The government has brought in stricter public health orders three times in the last month to try to bend the curve, including a ban on most social visits in private homes. Most recently, schools in some areas, including Winnipeg and Brandon, moved to remote learning.
Indoor dining at restaurants and food courts has also been banned under current public health orders, set to last until at least the end of May.
Word of more restrictions comes a day after health officials confirmed at least three critically ill COVID-19 patients have had to be moved to care in Ontario this week over fears Manitoba’s ICUs are hitting a breaking point.
The government would not rule out more transfers in the coming days as the province faces a third wave of the pandemic.
Health officials had warned in recent days that intensive care bed space was being stressed and that the province was fast approaching the peak of the second wave, when 129 beds were occupied. Before the pandemic, capacity was 72.
On Wednesday there were 131 patients in Manitoba intensive care units, including a record-setting 80 connected to COVID-19.
The province reported COVID-19 related ICU admissions had fallen to 76 Thursday. A Shared Health spokesperson said the province’s ICU numbers don’t include those who have been transferred out of province for care.
The spokesperson said a total of 125 patients were admitted to Manitoba ICUs as of midnight Thursday.
Pallister also promised Thursday to reveal incentives next week to encourage people to get vaccinated, telling reporters surging infections in the province are linked to people not getting their shots.
“COVID is evil. It robs your breath. It robs your strength. It robs your freedoms. It can take your life,” he said.
“There are real consequences to getting COVID and I don’t want those consequences to happen to you.”
Pallister said health officials have told him the majority of people getting infected and hospitalized have not been vaccinated, even though anyone 12 and older can get a shot in the province.
As of Wednesday 666,508 doses of vaccine have been administered in Manitoba and the province will begin booking for second-dose appointments Friday.
Manitoba has had the highest per-capita rate of new COVID-19 infections in the country in recent days.
Health officials reported a record-setting 603 more cases Thursday and three additional deaths. The percentage of people testing positive, averaged over the previous five days, stood at 13.8 per cent provincially and 15.3per cent in Winnipeg.
— with files from The Canadian Press