As Manitoba is set to move into the orange, or “restricted” level on the Pandemic Response System on Tuesday, premier Kelvin Goertzen says public health orders are being enforced as best they can by the 3,300 people on the job for the province.
“I don’t want to minimize the challenge of this. It’s no different than people who are speeding on the highways,” Goertzen said.
“We get calls about this all the time — are there not enough people enforcing on the highways? We can’t have somebody everywhere.”
“They’re doing their best in terms of ensuring those resources are being utilized in the best way they can.”
The new restrictions will have a greater impact on those who are unvaccinated, including limits on indoor and outdoor household guests if an unvaccinated person is on the property.
The orders will see retail capacity reduced to 50 per cent in the Southern Health region, where vaccination rates are lower than the rest of the province.
Goertzen, also the MLA for Steinbach, which is in the Southern Health district, continues to encourage a softer touch with vaccine-hesitant people, and said a hard sell from the government or health officials likely won’t change any minds.
“It really is a personal discussion. It’s with somebody that you trust. It’s with somebody who has had either a personal experience with COVID or has a family member who has,” Goertzen said.
“(It’s) these really, really personal, soft conversations — not people yelling at each other, not angry Facebook posts. It’s soft, individual conversations. That’s really what we’re down to now.”
For some communities in the Southern Health district, however, the new rules come as a frustration — and for a different reason.
Niverville mayor Myron Dyck said his community has bought into the vaccine, with an uptake rate of 81.8 per cent, but due to its location in Southern Health, his community is being punished alongside neighbouring scofflaws.
Dyck told 680 CJOB that during earlier waves of the pandemic, Niverville was under the same restrictions as similarly vaccinated Winnipeg, but this time that’s not the case — something that is exacerbating the frustration his constituents have been feeling for months.
“When you’ve had your staff at the front lines telling people, ‘you need to wear a mask,’ and they’ve been doing their due diligence — and then to be told right now, ‘Sorry, you’ve done your job, but it’s not going to be recognized,’ how can you help but not have low morale?”
Dyck said he’s asked public health twice for a meeting with the province’s chief medical officer, Dr. Brent Roussin, so he can ask for an exemption.
“When you have over 80 per cent and you find out that with this health order that starts tomorrow, it doesn’t matter,” Dyck said on Monday.
“How can I look my business sector and my residents in the eye, when they tell me, ‘See, it doesn’t matter anyway.’ What am I supposed to say?”