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Manitoba lifting many COVID-19 restrictions, effective Saturday

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COVID-19 restrictions in Manitoba saw major changes Tuesday, easing many health orders while switching from "restrictions" to "recommendations" in some cases.

A long list of changes - four pages worth in a provincial backgrounder - were announced August 7, almost all of which either ease previous health orders or remove them entirely.

"This is great for our economy and it's great for our communities as well," said Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister in an August 3 press conference where the changes were announced.

"I thank Manitobans for getting vaccinated. It's helping for us to get our shots and get our lives back. Thanks to your efforts and the efforts of our vaccination team - who have worked really, really hard - we continue to meet the vaccination goals that we've set."

Starting August 7 at 12:01 a.m., Manitoba will ease restrictions in several areas. All gyms, indoor and outdoor gatherings at private residences, libraries, day camps, personal services and retail locations will be able to open without restrictions, including for capacity, mask use or social distancing.

While mask use and distancing is still recommended by provincial health officials, they will not be required under current health orders. Businesses owners or groups are still allowed to mandate mask use, distancing or other COVID-19-related measures at their discretion.

"Masks are strongly recommended in indoor public settings for everyoe who is not fully immunized including children under 12. At all times, a physical distance of two metres is recommended in indoor public places," read the new, updated health orders.

Some restrictions will remain in place as of August 7 - including capacity limits for indoor gatherings like weddings, funerals, self-help groups, banquets and similar events. Those events will remain restricted to either 50 people or 50 per cent of venue capacity - whichever is larger. Outdoor events like these will be able to open for up to 1,500 people or 50 per cent capacity - once again, whichever is larger. Drive-in services are currently unrestricted in size. Dance floors will remain closed both indoors and outdoors and activities that "encourage close gathering and mingling" are not recommended by the province.

Indoor cultural and religious gatherings, including church services, will be restricted to 150 people or half the venue's capacity, whichever is greater.

For indoor dining at restaurants, no group limits for indoor or outdoor dining or capacity limits for restaurants will be mandated by the province, but guests are asked to stay seated when possible and keep distance from other patrons at other tables. Fully vaccinated, partially vaccinated and unvaccinated people will be able to sit together and immunization cards won't be required. Operating hour restrictions will be fully lifted for restaurants, pubs and bars, but the dance floor will remain closed.

Workplaces are still required to report COVID-19 cases to health authorities and workplaces where transmission of COVID-19 has been confirmed may be ordered to close for a 10-day isolation period, either for specific cohorts or groups or for entire operations. Remote work is no long required or outright recommended by public health.

Casinos and bingo halls will be able to reopen to 100 per cent, but only for fully vaccinated people. Museums, movie theatres and galleries can open for up to 50 per cent capacity and unvaccinated people will now be able to come inside. 

Professional sports events or outdoor performing arts events will be able to open 100 per cent, but only for fully vaccinated people and only with an event plan that is approved by Manitoba public health officials. Children under 12, who can't be vaccinated yet under Health Canada regulations, will be able to tag along with vaccinated family members. Large outdoor events are also able to open, but with a cap of 1,500 people taking part, all of whom must be fully immunized.

Outdoor fairs, festivals and other events can open for up to 1,500 people or 50 per cent of venue capacity. Larger events can be held, but only with a public health approved plan. Concert halls can open to 100 per cent capacity for vaccinated people only.

Indoor sports and recreations events will be able to take place with no capacity limits on participants, including fro games, practices, day camps, competitions, tournaments, rehearsals or recitals. Limits will still be in place for spectators, with facilities only able to open for 50 per cent capacity and spectators asked to distance when possible. Outdoor sports and recreation events will be subject to similar rules.

Overnight camps can reopen, with cohorts limited to 15 participants and no activites allowed between cohorts and public health approved plans.

These new health orders will be in effect until September 7, when the province and health officials will evaluate whether or not to lift all remaining COVID-19 health orders.

In all, 80 per cent of eligible people in Manitoba have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose as of August 3. The province's vaccination threshold for a full reopening by Labour Day was to have 80 per cent of eligible people with a first dose and 75 per cent of Manitobans fully vaccinated. As of August 3, the province is still short of the second mark, with about 71.4 per cent of Manitobans with second doses as of August 3.