Manitoba added more restrictions on top of existing health orders Wednesday, putting even stricter limits on gatherings and meet-ups and limiting what retail outlets can sell as of Friday.
The new health orders were announced in a press conference Nov. 19 with Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister and chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin. Under the new orders, all gatherings at homes including people outside the household will be restricted, starting Nov. 20 - essentially restricting all meet-ups at homes for people who don't already live there.
Some exemptions will be includeds for child care or health care workers, along with home care, tutors, construction and repair workers and emergency personnel. An exemption will also be made for people who live alone, who will be allowed to have one other perons come visit.
“Our COVID-19 numbers are concerning, to put it mildly. They continue to cause great strain on our health care system,” said Pallister.
“Despite those orders, which are the strongest in the country, and the firm recommendations from Dr. Roussin and our health system leaders, some Manitobans and some retailers are going against those rules, causing a greater risk to public safety.”
Other restrictions have been put on retail outlets and stores still authorized to stay open during the province's "red" designation under the provincial pandemic response system. Retail businesses will only be allowed to have 25 per cent capacity or 250 people - whichever number is lower - inside and will only be able to sell what the province considers "essential items".
“The orders will further limit social contacts and operation of non-essential business,” said Roussin.
“We saw people gathered at rallies. We saw crowded parking lots at big box stores. We saw people going shopping for non-essential items. We’re left with no other choice than to announce further measures to protect Manitobans and reduce the spread of the virus.”
Essential items, as considered by the province, include food, drink, personal hygiene products, health products and prescription drugs, mobility devices, baby and child care items, cleaning products, winter apparel, workplace PPE, pet supplies, stamps, cell phones, vehicle parts and repair, appliances, hunting and fishing supplies, tools, hardward, home and property maintenance material and construction supplies.
Non-essential items - including electronics, toys, sports equipment, flowers, jewelry, books and others - will need to be moved off the shopping floor but can still be ordered online or other remote means.
“We know there are several retailers that have been doing good work from the beginning – following orders, monitoring capacity, making changes based on health advice. There were others that were encouraging people to line up for Black Friday sales, selling non-essential items, trying to work around the orders,” said Roussin.
“We need to reduce our contacts. We need to reduce prolonged, close contacts, especially indoors. The best way to do that is to stay home. Stay home, don’t socialize and leave for essential reasons only.”
Existing "red" rules and restrictions will still be in effect until next month, including public indoor gathering limits of five people maximum and allowing small gatherings outdoors.
“Because the orders are strict, there aren’t many indoor places where people can gather anymore. It does allow instances such as weddings, funerals, other gatherings like baptisms can take place, but the capcity limit is five," Roussin said.
“We know there are significant physical and mental health benefits to being outside, staying active. The risk of contracting the virus is much lower outdoors, but even while observing the five person gathering limits, keep following basic public health advice and fundamentals.”