With possible changes to Manitoba's provincial restrictions on the horizon, the provincial government is looking for the public to chip in on how to reopen safely.
Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister announced the creation of an online survey to track what changes Manitobans want to see when current health orders and restrictions can be changed. The current province-wide restrictions for Manitoba are set to expire Jan. 22.
"Today, we're here to ask for your input to help inform our next steps. We have continued to consider the input of Manitobans an important part of this exercise from the very beginning," said the premier.
The survey, which was put online Jan. 15, asks the public about priorities for the province's planned gradual reopening, including what services or business types that have been shut down or heavily restricted - hairstylists, gyms, in-person non-essential retail sales, restaurants, religious services and the like - should be opened first once able.
While the survey may provide hope for Manitobans affected by restrictions and closures, Pallister urged caution and said the province intends to continue attempts to snuff out the disease.
"Our goal is to move forward and create a sustainable path forward where our businesses can safely reopen and stay open. What we don't want to do is have a yo-yo effect where we allow openings and then, because of rising case numbers, have to put in new restrictions. That would not be in anybody's best interests," he said.
"There are a number of services and activities that could be considered, but we must remember that this can't be and this won't be a fast return to normal. From the very beginning of this pandemic, we've reached out to you directly for your ideas and we're doing that again now. We want to ask you and we want to hear from you what's most important for your health and wellbeing, for that of your loved ones."
The current round of health orders have been place for around two months, during which Manitoba went from sky-high rates of new daily cases - as high as 593 cases Nov. 22 - to counts hovering around the low to mid 100s in January. Death rates from COVID-19 are also beginning to slow down, as are five-day test positivity rates in most of the province.
"I encourage all Manitobans to remember that, because of you, there is a real reason for optimism with that progress," said Pallister.
Northern Manitoba is a notable exception from that rule - the province is consistently putting up higher and higher numbers of new daily and active cases, with over 100 active cases in four separate health districts as of Jan. 15.
"As we look ahead to the next weeks and months ahead, there is a reason for hope - but we've got to earn that hope. We've got duty ahead of us... we can't lose sight of the gains we've made. We can't sacrifice those important gains. We have to remain vigilant in this important time in our fight against COVID-19. We're not out of the woods yet. We have to follow those fundamentals - stay home, only leave for essential purposes, stay home when you're ill, stay home if any member of your family is sick, don't socialize outside the household, wash your hands, practice physical distancing and wear a mask too."
The survey can be found at engagemb.ca. As of 2:30 p.m. Jan 15, the site was offline.