Manitoba loosens restrictions, gathering limits raised and event attendance increases

Manitoba announced sweeping changes to province-wide COVID-19 restrictions July 14. Limits on gathering sizes and events are still in place, as are mask mandates, but most other restrictions have been loosened.

As of July 17 at 12:01 a.m., indoor gatherings at private residences will be approved for up to five visitors, in addition to people living there. Outdoor gathering limits will go up from 10 people on private property and 25 people in public to up to 25 people outside on private property and 150 people outdoors. Indoors, public gathering limits have rose from five people maximum to 25.

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"Today is another significant day in our battle against this pandemic. We've all worked hard to get here by following public health orders and by getting vaccinated," said chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin during the July 14 announcement.

"This has been paying off. We're now getting closer and closer to a post-pandemic Manitoba. I want to thank Manitobans for their hard work, dedication and sacrifices."

Several health order changes will apply specifically to people who have been fully vaccinated for COVID-19. Restaurants, bars, pubs and food courts can move from 25 per cent capacity to 50 per cent capacity, both indoors and outdoors. Indoor dining will see people from different households able to eat together, as long as all are fully vaccinated. People who aren't fully vaccinated will be restricted 

Outdoor table sizes are limited to eight people, while open hours can be extended to midnight. People will also be able to buy alcohol without also buying food.

Gyms will be able to open for up to 50 per cent capacity, with masks required. Museums and galleries can now reopen at 50 per cent capacity, but only for fully vaccinated people - children under 12, who cannot yet be vaccinated, can attend if they are with other household members who are vaccinated. Libraries can also reopen for up to 50 per cent capacity, with a cap of 150 people. 

Professional sporting events or performing arts events can fully reopen, but only for fully vaccinated people and once teams or organizers have a plan approved by public health. For instance, Roussin announced that the Winnipeg Blue Bombers have been cleared to host a full crowd at Investors Group Field - consisting solely of fully-vaccinated people - for their August 5 home opener.

Up to 50 per cent capacity will be allowed at movie theatres and concert halls (with only fully vaccinated people able to attend), with weddings and funerals expanded to include 150 participants for outdoor ceremonies. Indoor weddings and funerals are now restricted to 25 people maximum.

Indoor community, cultural and religious events are now capped at 50 per cent capacity up to 150 people, with mask use mandatory at all times - outdoors, similar events will be able to have up to 150 people with drive-in services continue to be permitted. Personal services will stay open at 50 per cent capacity, but can now accept walk-ins and not only appointment bookings.

Casinos, bingo halls and VLTs - which were previously shut down completely - can now open up to 50 per cent capacity for fully vaccinated people only, with VLTs able to be used as long as patrons distance.

Day camps can now open for a maximum of 25 people, but joint activities between groups and overnight camps are prohibited. Retail operations can open at 50 per cent capacity to a limit of 500 people. Workplaces can also allow staff to return to work, instead of requiring people work from home when possible.

Dr. Roussin said the loosening of restrictions still has conditions due to case rates throughout the province still staying higher than other jurisdictions, but that the time where restrictions may be totally gone is close.

"We know this virus is not done with us. We're still seeing the virus, still seeing severe outcomes relating to the virus, but we're definitely in a position to loosen restrictions," said Roussin.

"I think the continued utilization of masks allows us to loosen other aspects of the orders right now. We are moving toward a post-pandemic Manitoba, a place where we have recommendations for many things, including masks, but not orders. We aren't there quite yet."

Saskatchewan lifted all COVID-19-related health orders within the province July 11, including dropping mask mandates and group size limits. That move came after weeks of declining case numbers, constantly reporting fewer cases than Manitoba.

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