Based on current COVID-19 projections, the Manitoba government is taking a cautious path towards reducing public health restrictions over the next several weeks, Premier Heather Stefanson announced today, noting the province will also make $16.3 million available to businesses and the arts and culture sector that have been affected by public health orders.
“Last week, we chose to extend public health orders to ensure the COVID-19 situation in Manitoba was stabilizing or improving, and we can see that continues to be the case,” said Stefanson. “This means we can be confident in moving forward with the next phase in our pandemic response, which is a gradual and cautious reopening. New public health orders will reduce restrictions over the next two weeks for private gatherings and begin a shift in how we address capacity limits and how and when we gather in public spaces.”
Private gatherings where everyone is fully vaccinated will be expanded to allow the household plus 25 others in indoor spaces and 50 people in outdoor spaces. More stringent restrictions are in place for private gatherings with individuals who are not vaccinated. However, these are also expanded from previous public health orders. The changes to public health orders will also allow sports and recreation tournaments to resume, extend liquor sales to 12 a.m. at licensed premises and adjust capacity restrictions in many public spaces.
“To be effective, public health orders should only be as restrictive as we need at the time,” said Dr. Brent Roussin, chief provincial public health officer. “Manitobans have largely stepped up and followed these rules when it was critical in our pandemic response and also chose to get vaccinated, which has helped us to protect ourselves, each other and the capacity of our health-care system. The data and modelling show that we are stabilizing and may have in fact passed the peak we expected from omicron. The next few weeks will be critical as we monitor these trends and determine if it is appropriate to reduce additional restrictions over the longer term.”
The premier noted the province will continue to consult with public health to determine the timing and extent of the next phase of relaxing public health orders based on health-care system capacity, modelling and other data. The intent is to implement a gradual loosening of capacity restrictions and other measures by spring, while learning to live with COVID-19.
The new public health orders will come into effect at 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 8 and will remain in place until Tuesday, Feb. 22. Manitoba remains at the Orange (Restricted) level under the Pandemic Response System.
The Manitoba government is also providing further support to business by expanding program eligibility under the Sector Support Program and providing second payments to those affected by the COVID-19 public health orders that were in place before Jan. 31.
“Many businesses and organizations across the province have faced significant financial losses under the latest public health orders,” said Stefanson. “We are following through on the commitment we made when we established the Sector Support Program. This will help sustain businesses in the coming weeks as we begin to reopen our economy. The arts and cultural sector will also be eligible for another $6 million to help address the challenges they have faced over the last several months. Together, this will help rebuild a vibrant economy and cultural scene in our province as we look forward with our reopening path.”
The expansion to the Sector Support Program is expected to flow up to $10.3 million of the $22 million allocated under this program and includes:
- extending the program intake period until Feb. 28, 2022;
- expanding eligibility under the program to include event rentals, catering and photographers; and
- providing a second payment to businesses that have been previously approved and are affected by public health orders in place into February.
Businesses can apply for grants based on the number of employees. With the addition of a second payment, the maximum support available increases to:
- $6,000 for one to nine employees;
- $12,000 for 10 to 19 employees;
- $18,000 for 20 to 49 employees; and
- $24,000 for 50 or more employees.
The Sector Support Program is available to businesses such as restaurants, hotels and bars that provide dine-in food services, fitness and recreation facilities, movie theatres, performance venues and museums. The premier noted that all these applicants will receive two payments if they apply before the Feb. 28 deadline. Event rentals, catering and photographers who apply will be recognized as being impacted by the December public health order and qualify for the new maximum supports. Other eligible businesses who apply for the first time in February will be eligible for the original amounts in recognition of the impact of the current public health orders. More information on the Sector Support Program is available at https://manitoba.ca/covid19/programs/issp.html.
The premier noted $6 million in new funding has been allocated to the Arts and Culture Sustainability Program to support organizations in this sector negatively affected by COVID-19 and public health order restrictions. For more information, visit https://artscouncil.mb.ca/grants/support-arts-and-culture-sustainability-fund/.
For more information about COVID-19 and the pandemic response in Manitoba, visit: manitoba.ca/covid19.