Manitoba easing some health orders this weekend, indoor dining, gyms, churches reopen

After a long second and third wave of COVID-19, Manitoba will finally begin to ease some public health orders starting Saturday.

The province announced that the next stage of Manitoba's reopening plan, officially dubbed the "4-3-2-One Great Summer Reopening Path", will go into effect starting June 26. Vaccination rates in Manitoba have cleared the minimum threshold for starting some easing of restrictions - about 71 per cent of Manitobans have at least one vaccine dose, while more than 27 per cent have both doses.

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Starting June 26, outdoor private gathering limits will ease up to allow for 10 people, with public outdoor gatherings increasing to 25 people. Retail businesses can now open at up to 25 per cent capacity or 250 people, with personal services like hair and nail salons able to open up at 50 per cent capacity for appointments only. While the changes in health orders allow for limited outdoor gatherings, indoor gathering rules have not changed - indoor gatherings of any size on private property are still restricted under the current health orders.

Restaurants and bars can reopen at one quarter capacity indoors and 50 per cent capacity for outdoor dining. Patrons from different households will only be able to eat together indoors if they are fully immunized from COVID-19, with up to eight people able to eat together outside whether they have two vaccine doses or not.

Indoor faith services and faith-based gatherings can now reopen at 25 per cent capacity or 25 people - whichever is smaller - with masks on at all times, with outdoor faith gatherings allowed to reopen for up to 50 people as long as distance can be kept.

Weddings and funerals can take place outdoors with up to 25 people involved, along with a photographer and officiants, while indoor weddings will still be capped at 10 people. Organized sports, music, theatre and indoor dance performance can reopen for up to 25 per cent capacity, up to a maximum of five people for the moment - no tournaments are allowed yet.

Swimming pools and wading pools will be able to reopen at 25 per cent capacity, as well as gyms and fitness facilities, which can reopen for 25 per cent capacity with three metres of distance between patrons. Summer camps will be able to open up for up to 20 participants in groups, which has not changed from a previous announcement made by the province last week.

This set of public health orders is roughly slated to expire August 2, as of June 23, in accordance with the provincial plan. According to Manitoba's current reopening plan, the province will remain under at least some form of public health orders until Labour Day.

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister, when announcing the plan June 23, said the reason for the easing of some public health orders is due to lower COVID-19 case rates and higher vaccination uptake.

"This reopening pathway has been tied to rising vaccination rates, first and second dose vaccinations and declining COVID-19 cases. This 4-3-2-1 Great Summer Plan set out four reopening categories, three long weekend milestones we needed to hit, two public health responsibilities, following public health orders and getting vaccinated and it set out a clear path for one great summer with more opening and fewer restrictions," said Pallister.

"This week, Manitobans met and surpassed the vaccination goals. Thank you to Manitobans for doing that. Our first milestone has been hit."

Other rules will be put into effect for people who have both doses of COVID-19 vaccines and have waited the two-week post-second dose period, now being considered fully immunized. Under current health orders, fully immunized people will be able to visit loved ones in hospitals or care homes, travel throughout Canada for non-essential and essential purposes without having to do a two-week self-isolation period upon coming home and eat indoors at restaurants and bars with other people outside their household who are also fully immunized. Fully immunized people will also be able to attend sporting events and large-scale events.

Along with those orders, fully immunized people will be exempt from having to self-isolate if someone close to them tests positive for COVID-19 and they are considered a "close contact". Further health order changes for fully vaccinated people are anticipated to come in July.

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