Manitoba is tweaking public health orders meant to protect the health care system during COVID-19 to allow up to five people to get together outdoors.
Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief public health officer said the change means Manitobans can invite up to five people to gather outdoors at their homes, but visitors need to be from no more than two other households.
Groups of up to five people will also be allowed to meet outdoors in public places, Roussin added.
No other changes were made to the province’s current public health orders and Roussin said a ban on indoor gatherings will continue.
“We still have significant demands on our health care system so we’re not in a position to open everything at once,” Roussin said.
“But we are in a position to slowly ease — very minimally — some of our restrictions.”
Manitobans have been under tight restrictions on social gatherings during the pandemic’s third wave.
Any get-togethers between people from different households — indoors or out — have been forbidden, although there’s been a limited exemption for people who live alone.
Restaurants can only offer takeout and delivery services. Cinemas, gyms and museums are closed, and students in some areas, including Winnipeg and Brandon, have switched to remote learning.
The new set of public health orders announced Wednesday will be in place until at least June 26, Roussin said.
The restrictions, along with ongoing vaccination efforts, have been credited for helping cut daily case counts from a peak last month of more than 600.
Daily case numbers have been dropping. The province reported its lowest daily case count in several weeks — 169 cases — Monday, but Roussin said hospitals remain strained, with hundreds in hospital and dozens of intensive care patients being sent to other provinces to free up ICU space.
The province said 30 COVID-19 patients were being treated in other provinces as of Wednesday, as 250 new cases and two deaths were reported, including a boy in his teens from Winnipeg.
Earlier this week Roussin said any changes to the province’s current health orders, set to expire this weekend, were likely to be slight.
But he had hinted government may consider allowing outdoor gatherings.
“We’re not in a position to significantly loosen anything right now,” Roussin said Monday.
“We know the outdoor settings are less risky, so we … can consider something like that about the outdoor settings.”
Roussin said Wednesday he’s still recommending those who gather outdoors under the new rules wear masks and practice physical distancing.
“We know this has been hard,” he said.
“But we need to continue to stay home, work from home as much as we can, follow the fundamentals and get vaccinated as soon as possible to ease the pressure on the health system.”
–With files from The Canadian Press
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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.
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