Following the advice of public health officials and input from tens of thousands of Manitobans, the Manitoba government is considering modest changes to the public health orders that balance the needs of the health-care system and the economy while protecting the well-being of all Manitobans, Premier Brian Pallister and Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief provincial public health officer, announced today.
“Manitobans deserve to be proud – it is because of their willingness and dedication to follow the public health orders to protect their loved ones and their community that we have been able to bend our COVID curve down, and keep it down,” said Pallister. “While there is much reason for optimism with that progress, we must not let our guard down, which is why we are taking a cautious approach to safely restoring our services and activities in Manitoba.”
Changes currently under consideration for some parts of the province include:
• household limits: Current orders restrict visitors to private residences with specific exceptions that enable trades and support people as well as limited visitors for people who live alone. The orders could be expanded to increase personal connections and the well-being of Manitobans by allowing:
– two additional people (family or friends) to visit a household;
– outdoor visits of up to five people plus members of a household on outdoor private property;
– funerals to have up to 10 people in addition to the officiant.
• retail operations: Current orders allow retail establishments to open for in-person sales, provided they only sell essential or seasonal products, and maintain reduced occupancy of 25 per cent with a maximum of 250 people. The orders could be expanded to allow:
– all stores to open for the sale of all products and current requirements to maintain physical distancing and occupancy limits would remain in place and be enforced.
– the elimination of the essential items list.
• health services and hair salons/barbershops: Non-regulated health services, hair salons and barbershops are currently closed. The orders could be expanded to allow:
– non-regulated health services, such as podiatrists and reflexologists, to reopen with adequate physical distancing and requirements to collect information for contact tracing purposes; and
– barber shops and hair stylists to reopen at 25 per cent capacity with adequate physical distancing and requirements to collect information for contact tracing purposes.
Given the high case counts in northern Manitoba and in many First Nations, Roussin noted that in order to protect those vulnerable communities, any proposed changes would most likely only apply to communities in the Winnipeg, Southern Health–Santé Sud, Interlake–Eastern and Prairie Mountain Health regions.
“As we look at ways to gradually ease restrictions on the way Manitobans socialize and do business, we must always consider the needs of our health-care system and our vulnerable communities,” said Roussin. “We cannot lose sight of the progress we have made over the last 10 weeks, which is why it is crucial that Manitobans continue to follow the fundamentals as we move forward through this pandemic.”
The province encourages input from Manitobans on the proposed changes that could come into effect as early as Friday. Manitobans will be asked for their perspective on each set of proposed changes. To provide feedback, visit https://engagemb.ca/.
The premier noted the recommendations considered feedback from Manitobans about restarting services and activities. More than 67,500 responses were filled out between Friday, Jan. 15 and Monday, Jan. 18. Preliminary findings included:
• 85 per cent of respondents strongly or somewhat agreed public health should use a regional approach to orders and restrictions;
• 85 per cent of respondents strongly or somewhat agreed it is important the province reopen gradually, preventing a yo-yo return to restrictions in future; and
• 80 per cent of respondents strongly or somewhat agreed it is important the health-care system is stable and able to meet the demands of the pandemic before restrictions are eased.
In addition, respondents listed:
• the ability to shop without limitations (74 per cent), the ability to visit a stylist or barber (70 per cent) and the ability to visit health professionals (72 per cent) as somewhat or very important;
• the ability to gather with people from outside my household (77 per cent) as somewhat or very important;
• the ability to have more people attend a funeral than the current five-person limit followed, with 65 per cent indicating this was somewhat or very important;
• the ability to have more than five people attend a wedding was more split, with 49 per cent identifying it as somewhat or very important, and 29 per cent identifying it as not or not at all important; and
• the ability to attend, in person, the house of worship of their choice was identified as important far less often than the others, with only 29 per cent identifying it as somewhat or very important and 50 per cent identifying it as not or not at all important.
A full analysis of the survey is underway and will be posted on the EngageMB website once completed.
Roussin noted that final public health orders will be introduced later this week to replace public health orders expiring Jan. 22.
For up-to-date information on COVID-19 in Manitoba, visit www.manitoba.ca/COVID19.
(News Release – Manitoba)