Fully-vaccinated Manitobans will be allowed to return to movie theatres, museums, and casinos under the province’s latest COVID-19 public health orders.
The new orders, which go into effect Saturday morning, will also allow groups of up to five people to gather indoors in private residences along with homeowners, regardless of vaccination status.
“We are taking another step today, a good news day, towards a reopened Manitoba,” Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister said at a Wednesday press conference.
“This is a positive step today.”
Under a reopening plan announced last month, health officials said they would look at gradually loosening restrictions if certain vaccination milestones are hit over the summer, provided daily case numbers and hospitalization rates have also fallen.
The first milestone — 70 per cent of Manitobans aged 12 and up having their first dose and 25 per cent having their second — was hit before the July 1 target, and the province loosened some restrictions late last month.
Since then the second milestone, 75 per cent of eligible Manitobans having their first dose and 50 per cent having their second, has also been hit ahead of the targeted August long weekend.
Pallister said Wednesday that means the loosening of restrictions can come early too.
“Thanks to the incredible efforts of Manitoba’s vaccine team and Manitobans’ willingness to roll up their sleeves – not once, but twice – we are able to move forward earlier than anticipated with fewer restrictions on our economy and our communities,” he said.
Under the new orders indoor gatherings in public spaces are capped at 25 people, while outdoor gathering sizes on private property expand to 25 people. Public outdoor gatherings — including weddings and funerals — also increase to a maximum of 150 people.
Capacity limits on indoor weddings and funerals increase to 25 people as well as photographers and officiants.
Capacity at many retail businesses will increase to 50 per cent, or 500 people, and restaurants, licensed premises, and food courts expand to 50 per cent capacity.
Restaurant patrons may only sit together indoors if they are from the same household or if all those 12 and over are fully vaccinated. Outdoor maximum table size remains at eight people, but opening hours will be extended to midnight and the requirement to buy food when ordering alcohol is being scrapped.
Video lottery terminals can now operate in bars and restaurants with only those from the same household or the fully-vaccinated allowed to sit together, provided social distancing rules are followed.
Faith-based and cultural gatherings can expand to 50 per cent capacity, or 150 people, indoors with masks and social distancing required between households.
Movie theatres, bingo halls, VLT lounges and casinos, as well as museums and galleries, will be allowed to open at 50 per cent capacity, but only those who’ve been fully vaccinated will be allowed.
Children under 12, who can’t yet be vaccinated, will also be allowed, provided they’re with a fully-vaccinated member of their household.
Dr. Brent Roussin, chief provincial public health officer, said an upcoming Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ CFL game will be able to fully fill the stands with fans who are fully vaccinated.
Roussin said indoor mask use and physical distancing will still be required under the latest health orders, which he said will be reassessed Aug. 7.
“More and more vaccinations allow us to loosen public health restrictions,” Roussin said.
“But COVID-19 is still circulating in the province and continues to challenge our hospital and ICU capacity, a phased reopening is a safe reopening.”
Current health orders ban most indoor social gatherings and require museums, theatres and casinos to remain closed.
Restaurants and bars are limited to 25 per cent capacity indoors and 50 per cent on patios. Hair salons, gyms and indoor sports have been allowed to resume operating, but with capacity restrictions. Hair and nail salons, as well as barber shops, are available by appointment only.
Under the new orders hair and nail salons, as well as barber shops remained capped at 50 per cent capacity, but appointments are no longer required
Under the province’s three-step reopening plan, officials have previously said openings would increase to 50 per cent capacity, and gathering sizes limits would be again increased if the second milestone was hit by the August long weekend.
In the final round of reopening the province will open businesses, services and facilities fully, with some restrictions if 80 per cent of the eligible population has received one shot and 75 per cent has received two shots by Labour Day, officials have said.
As of Wednesday 76.7 per cent of eligible Manitobans have received one shot of vaccine and 58.5 per cent have received two doses, according to a provincial website tracking vaccinations.
Manitoba reported 53 new COVID-19 cases and no new deaths Wednesday.
–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.
For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, visit our coronavirus page.