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Manitoba extends pandemic lockdown into new year Province changes lanes, allows drive-in worship services

Manitobans will be subject to some of the most severe pandemic restrictions in Canada for another month, as health officials seek to lower COVID-19 case numbers and ease pressure on hospitals.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 08/12/2020 (786 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Manitobans will be subject to some of the most severe pandemic restrictions in Canada for another month, as health officials seek to lower COVID-19 case numbers and ease pressure on hospitals.

Public health orders that have greatly restricted business operations, gathering sizes and recreation will remain in place until Jan. 8, the province announced Tuesday — putting to rest any hopes gatherings could be hosted over the holiday season.

Only minor changes will be made to existing public health orders that had been slated to end at midnight Friday. The new orders are to take effect 12:01 a.m. Saturday.

Premier Brian Pallister and chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin said maintaining restrictions on the ability to gather, shop, and worship were necessary to contain the pandemic.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister, right, announcing that current public-health orders intended to reduce the spread of COVID-19 will be extended into the new year with minor changes, at the Legislative Building, Tuesday.

While case numbers remain high, there’s evidence the critical (red) restrictions in place in Winnipeg since Nov. 2 and across the province since Nov. 12 are having some effect.

“The existing critical level of restrictions will be extended and here’s why: because they’re working. They’re beginning to make a difference,” Pallister said Tuesday.

While Manitoba’s case numbers were flat last week compared to the week prior, they rose 14.8 per cent across Canada and by a whopping 30.7 per cent in British Columbia.

Effective at 12:01 a.m. Saturday, drive-in events, such as church services, will be permitted as long as vehicle passengers are all from the same household and no one leaves the car during the event. The change comes after weeks of controversy and the levying of fines against individuals and institutions who flouted the rules.

“The existing critical level of restrictions will be extended and here’s why: because they’re working. They’re beginning to make a difference.”
– Premier Brian Pallister

Thrift stores will be allowed to open with some limits in recognition that those with lower incomes may be unfairly impacted by current health orders.

In a nod to the holiday season, retail items such as garlands and ornaments and religious items, such as menorahs and candles, can now be purchased.

What’s new

Announced changes to Manitoba public health orders include:

— Temporarily allowing drive-in events, such as religious services, with rules that limit vehicle occupants to single households and prohibit people from exiting vehicles;

— Allowing thrift stores to open, with some capacity guidelines to allow access to second-hand clothing and other items;

— Listing school supplies as essential items;

— Temporarily allowing drive-in events, such as religious services, with rules that limit vehicle occupants to single households and prohibit people from exiting vehicles;

— Allowing thrift stores to open, with some capacity guidelines to allow access to second-hand clothing and other items;

— Listing school supplies as essential items;

— Allowing some retail exemptions for the purchase of holiday and religious items, such as menorahs, candles, garlands and Christmas decorations;

— Allowing acupuncturists and manual osteopathy services to operate;

— Permitting private residences to allow legal services, landlord access and access for home businesses;

— Clarifying the operations of food banks and food hamper services;

— Permitting the Winnipeg Jets to train in Manitoba in preparation for an eventual NHL decision on a 2021 playing season.

Roussin said drive-in services will be monitored to ensure the new restrictions are followed. If they’re not, “the orders will be subject to change,” he said.

On Tuesday, the province reported 13 additional COVID-19-related deaths, bringing the total number in Manitoba to 420.

A total of 245 new cases were reported. The five-day test positivity rate was 13.3 per cent provincially; 13.9 per cent in Winnipeg.

In its latest enforcement bulletin, the government said a total of 285 warnings and 85 tickets were issued Nov. 30-Dec. 6 to those violating health orders. Included were nine $5,000 fines for businesses, 53 $1,296 tickets to individuals for various offences, and 15 $298 tickets for failure to wear a mask in indoor public places.

The new public orders that come into effect Saturday are still being drafted and will be released later in the week.

The province will also provide updated, detailed guidance on the operation of food banks, hamper preparation and distribution in the forthcoming orders, as well as guidance on outdoor recreation activities.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba's chief public health officer, said drive-in services will be monitored to ensure the new restrictions are followed. If they're not, "the orders will be subject to change."

It is acceptable to be outdoors and active, public health officials said, as long as group sizes are limited to five and physical distancing of two metres is kept between people who do not live together. Outdoor physical activity is encouraged for individuals and members of immediate households only, the province said.

The updated guidance will outline how to minimize the risk of spreading the novel coronavirus while participating in activities such as tobogganing or ice skating.

Organized sports, large outdoor gatherings and communal warm-up centres are not allowed, according to the province.

Meanwhile, Manitoba has opted against tightening restrictions any further. Officials said quarantine requirements on travellers from Western Canada will not form part of the new orders, as the epidemiology in western provinces is similar to that in Manitoba.

Opposition Leader Wab Kinew expressed support for the new public health orders, saying the coronavirus situation in Manitoba remains serious.

“I think some of the relaxed measures make sense,” he said.

Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont said he was pleased to see some of the orders clarified.

“When you’re coming up with new rules and you can’t explain why you’re bringing in the rule, it makes it more likely that people will ignore it or not take it seriously, when what we need to be doing is taking these measures extremely seriously,” he said.

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

danielle.dasilva@freepress.mb.ca

Danielle Da Silva

Danielle Da Silva
Reporter

Danielle Da Silva is a general assignment reporter.

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.

History

Updated on Tuesday, December 8, 2020 12:43 PM CST: updates headline

Updated on Tuesday, December 8, 2020 12:53 PM CST: Adds photo, updates headline, adds information on Winnipeg Jets.

Updated on Tuesday, December 8, 2020 6:40 PM CST: Updates earlier version of story to final version, adds photos and factbox.

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