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Mayor, premier say health orders will be enforced Public health scofflaws could face fines or jail time

There was a sense of urgency — if not trepidation — among Manitoba's political and public health leaders Thursday on the eve of the long weekend.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 09/04/2020 (1028 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

There was a sense of urgency — if not trepidation — among Manitoba’s political and public health leaders Thursday on the eve of the long weekend.

A lot hangs in the balance in the coming days.

Manitobans have been, at least temporarily, flattening the curve of COVID-19 in recent days, but any let-up in social-distancing efforts now could prove disastrous, driving up case numbers and causing lives to be lost.

“This weekend is concerning to me — the timing of it,” Dr. Brent Roussin, the province’s chief public health officer told a media briefing.

Just moments earlier, in a joint news conference at the legislative building, Premier Brian Pallister and Mayor Brian Bowman announced new measures to enforce public health orders until broader provincial legislation is passed next week. The legislature is to convene on Wednesday.

The two leaders said city-owned skateboard sites, play structures, picnic shelters, outdoor barbecues, and athletic and sports fields, pitches, diamonds, greens, courts or similar areas are now off-limits.

Two staff at Microbiology Lab test positive

CP On Thursday, staff at at the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg were informed that two coworkers have tested positive for COVID-19. (John Woods / Canadian Press files)

Posted:

OTTAWA — Two staff at the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg have tested positive for COVID-19.

“The employees are in self-isolation and are following the direction of the local public-health authority,” wrote Éric Morrissette, spokesman for the Public Health Agency of Canada.

Staff at the lab received an email about the cases on Thursday.

Morissette said the lab has followed protocols for disinfection, hand-washing and distancing, and that NML was not surprised that local staff could catch a virus circling in the broader community.

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Anyone within city parks must maintain a distance of at least two metres from every other person they’re not living with while they’re in the park, and no one “may be within a group of 10 or more people.”

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister speaks: "We want to make sure there is a deterrent for putting others at risk."

Anyone caught violating the rules in city-owned parks faces a fine of up to $1,000 and up to six months in jail, Bowman said.

Effective Thursday, those violating the order to limit gatherings to no more than 10 people anywhere else in Manitoba face a $486 provincial fine. Non-essential businesses that open and those that don’t follow social-distancing requirements face fines of $2,542.

“We want to make sure there is a deterrent for putting others at risk,” Pallister said of the new enforcement strategy dubbed Operation Safe Apart.

“You’d better change the way you’ve been behaving and you better do it now or you’re going to be lighter in the pocketbook very, very soon.”
– Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister

For those flouting the rules, the premier warned: “You’d better change the way you’ve been behaving and you better do it now or you’re going to be lighter in the pocketbook very, very soon.” Without offering more details, he said enforcement officers would be “everywhere.”

The new enforcement measures were announced as public health officials shared relatively good news on the coronavirus front for a second consecutive day. Only three new cases were reported in Manitoba on Thursday. The average number of new infections in the past five days has been six.

More importantly, the number of active cases (the total testing positive, minus the number who have recovered or died) continued to edge lower. On Thursday, the number stood at 145; on Wednesday it was 149.

“Staying home does not mean going to your cottage. Staying home does not mean going to faith-based organizations. Staying home does not mean taking the entire family out.”
– Manitoba’s chief public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin

Roussin said he was “happy” to see those numbers, but he cautioned Manitobans against reading too much into them — and relaxing social-distancing efforts.

“We need to continue these efforts. We need to double our efforts to continue to keep this curve flat in Manitoba,” he said.

The public health officer said now is not the time for family get-togethers.

“Staying home does not mean going to your cottage. Staying home does not mean going to faith-based organizations. Staying home does not mean taking the entire family out.”

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman: "Fining people for going to the skatepark is not what any mayor or premier wants to announce."

Asked when the virus was likely to peak in Manitoba, Roussin said that will depend on our actions. The key, he said, is to delay the peak for as long as possible. That could prevent large spikes in numbers of very sick people that would overwhelm the health system.

As of Thursday, 11 Manitobans were hospitalized with COVID-19, including five in intensive care. Roussin said four of the five in ICU were on ventilators.

Meanwhile, Bowman said that before any fines are laid in Winnipeg, a small army of 48 blue-shirted community service ambassadors will be patrolling the city looking for gatherings where people are not respecting physical-distancing orders to educate them.

“These measures aren’t being done for popularity.”
– Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman

If they don’t obey, a bylaw enforcement officer will issue an appearance notice that could lead to a fine or jail time.

“Fining people for going to the skatepark is not what any mayor or premier wants to announce,” the mayor said. “These measures aren’t being done for popularity.”

Bowman and Pallister said the majority of Manitobans are obeying social-distancing rules.

“Sadly there is a small minority of people who are not doing their part,” the premier said.

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders
Legislature reporter

After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.

Larry Kusch

Larry Kusch
Legislature reporter

Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.

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