Restrictions for large gatherings in Manitoba are starting to loosen up.
The province is set to increase the maximum gathering size to 25 for indoor events and 50 for outdoor events. Manitoba chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin said the changes would come into effect May 22 – this Friday – while continuing to urge caution.
“It’s not a return to normal. We’re still going to be dealing with this virus for some time,” Roussin said.
“We still need to take precautions.”
All existing provincial rules and orders on social distancing will continue to apply. Roussin reiterated the usual precautions of hand-washing and physical distancing and put extra emphasis on staying home if you are sick.
“I’m sure most of us have pushed through a cold, going to work or heading out and it was just the way things were. They’re just not that way anymore,” he said.
“We all have to be on the same page. Employers, employees, the public, we just can’t be out and about when we have those symptoms.”
No new cases were announced at the province’s May 20 briefing. One Manitoban is currently in hospital with the disease and the province is tracking 23 active cases.
Roussin acknowledged that setting gathering limits is an imperfect science and Manitoba will closely monitor the case numbers as restrictions loosen.
“It’s a bit arbitrary, so we wanted to take a graded approach,” he said.
“We will allow 50 outdoors because the risk of transmission is lower. Those were the numbers we landed on that were adequate for this phase.”
Allowing larger gathering sizes does not mean other restrictions will loosen. Restrictions on travel to northern Manitoba are still in place – northern residents can leave the region and return, but southern residents cannot head north unless the travel is for essential purposes. Businesses are still restricted on what they can and cannot do.
“Right now we’re talking about things in the house,” Roussin said.
“We can’t be going over to someone’s house, our friends and family, if we’re showing signs of illness. We need to be careful with this… Manitobans can start this very gradual, cautious return for what will be the new normal.”
Manitoba may soon enter the second phase of its proposed reopening plan. The provincial government previously said the province wouldn’t enter that phase until June 1.
Manitoba’s second phase of reopening would likely include allowing restaurants to return sit-down services (50 per cent capacity) and non-contact children’s sports.