Manitoba proposing changes to northern travel restrictions as part of phase two reopening

It's too soon to tell exactly when, but some travel restrictions for northern Manitoba could soon be on their way out.

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister announced the province's proposal for phase two of reopening May 21, including direct travel to “northern parks, campgrounds, cabins, lodges and resorts”.

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Manitoba chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin said the province is asking for feedback before finalizing any plans, including feedback from First Nation communities.

“This is a balance of having things moving with the economy, with businesses that rely on [travel] during a relatively short season, and protecting susceptible communities” he said.

“Any loosening of the restriction would be very specific. They’ll be directly to and directly from. People won’t be visiting communities, and people need to respect First Nation communities on their policies.”

Also included in the phase two proposal is an increase to child care occupancy, a resumption of some sporting activities, lifting some restrictions related to outdoor venues, allowing gyms and personal services to open and allowing bars and restaurants to open at 50 per cent capacity.

While most businesses will be able to open, each one is expected to follow some restrictions.

“We have a fairly broad reopening,” Roussin said. 

“But a broad reopening with many, many restrictions, to ensure people are following guidelines to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.”

Roussin said the province is tracking per cent positive test rate, community transmission, and hospitalizations to see how successful reopening is.

“The significant indicators we’re looking at, we’re in that green zone, we’re in the zone we want to be in to keep moving forward,” Roussin said.

“It’s not just one or two indicators we’re looking at.”

Also included in phase two is the potential for some schools to open to help students who have fallen behind during the shutdown.

Pallister also proposed starting the 2020/21 school year one week sooner to help students catch up.

Roussin said even as the province reopens, Manitobans’ behaviours will have to change. He again emphasized any sick person, no matter how mild their symptoms, should stay home and not just “push through it.”

“This virus isn’t gone,” he said.

“It’s still here. Manitobans are going to have to deal with this virus moving forward for the foreseeable future, so we’re going to need to learn how to deal with this virus. We can’t stay in a lockdown for a year.”

The maximum gathering size in Manitoba will increase to 25 people indoors and 50 people outdoors May 22.

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