New restrictions are coming into effect for Manitoba - orders that health officials say may be the last such orders needed for the province.
As the feared third wave of COVID-19 continues to pick up speed - particularly in Winnipeg and nearby communities - another set of stringent health orders was announced April 26, increasing limits for gatherings inside buildings and for several activities.
The changes, according to Premier Brian Pallister and chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin, are due to rising COVID-19 case counts, including rising numbers of COVID-19 variants of concern. As of April 26, there are now 34 variant of concern cases reported in northern Manitoba.
“The third wave of the pandemic is here. It’s a race between variants and vaccines and right now, in most of our country, the variants are winning,” Pallister said.
“We can do something about that though. We started, one week ago, to strengthen public health orders... in order to address and slow the speed of this third wave and to avoid, as best we possibly can, a full shutdown of sectors of our economy and our lives. That has major consequences for many, both financially and for the mental health of many people we care for.”
Roussin showed medical data in the April 26 media briefing, showing increases in variant cases and alarming signs in key medical indicators - the average age of people needing intensive care after getting COVID-19 is dropping and cases are jumping up higher for people in their 20s and 30s.
“In March and early April, we worked hard to reduce our COVID-19 case count. The variants of concern that have emerged have largely changed those rules,” said Roussin.
“We’re seeing the number of new infections climb and the seven-day average is going quickly behind. Right now, we’re essentially where we were at at the end of October, right before we say that dramatic increase in cases. To add to that, we’re now dealing with the majority of our cases being variants of concern - they’re much more transmissible, they spread easily and we’re in a very precarious place right now.”
The new rules go into effect April 28, starting at 12:01 a.m. Rules for meetings at private residences have changed, from all households being allowed two designated visitors to no visitors at residences at all, either indoor or outdoor, with exemptions for one person for people who live alone. Indoor gatherings of any size, either private or public, are not permitted.
Limits for outdoor gatherings on public property have decreased from 10 people to five, with no outdoor gatherings permitted on private property.
There won’t be any changes for dine-in restrictions for restaurants, but patio dining limits have changed from a limit of six people to four people. Those four people do not need to be from the same household, as long as all other health measures are in effect. Food courts in malls will need to close.
Capacity at gyms will be capped at 25 per cent, with measures in place for spectators and common areas, like locker rooms. Masks will need to be worn at all times and three metres of physical distancing will be required.
Casinos and VLTs will be unchanged - casinos will stay closed, while VLTs in a business can still operate as long as the machines in use are located two metres or more away from each other.
A limit of 25 per cent capacity or up to 10 people (whichever is lower) will be in place for what the province deems “community, cultural and religious gatherings”, including for church services. Masks will be required to be worn at all times.
No changes have been announced for museums, galleries, movie theatres, concert halls, weddings or funerals, drive-ins or other services.
No other changes will be put in place for outdoor sports and recreation, meaning games can still be allowed, but limits on spectators will be put in place. For outdoor youth sports, only one parent, spectator or other observer can come to a game per player, and all attendees will need to socially distance. Dance studios and theatre and music schools will be at 25 per cent capacity, with a maximum of 10 people, with spectators limited to one observer, much like with outdoor sports.
Day camps will be allowed to run with up to 10 children, both indoors and outdoors. Malls and retail locations will be capped at either 25 per cent capacity, or 250 people maximum for retail locations.