Winkler residents celebrate getting ‘freedom back’
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This article was published 15/03/2022 (375 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
WINKLER — It wasn’t just the warmer weather putting smiles on diners’ faces at Del Rios restaurant Tuesday afternoon.
For the first time in a long time, diners were permitted to mingle inside the restaurant without masks, after the province lifted the last of its pandemic public health orders Tuesday.
And customers and staff took full advantage; not one wore a face covering.
Helena Wall, who was having lunch at the Mexican restaurant, said she hopes the end of pandemic restrictions will help bridge the divide in the southern Manitoba community, where vaccination rates are among the lowest in the province.
“It feels like we’ve got some sort of freedom back, and that’s amazing,” she said. “That’s what we’ve been asking for.”
Wall, who isn’t vaccinated and has lost several family members to COVID-19, said she believes people who continue to wear masks are living in fear.
“That saddens me, and that’s where the divide is, right? Now you will see the divide of people still believing,” Wall said.
“It feels like we’ve got some sort of freedom back, and that’s amazing.” – Helana Wall
A husband and wife, who didn’t want to be named, said it’s time for the community to move on.
“It’s a change of seasons,” said the husband.
“It’s great. Everyone’s happy, we were all chatting…,” added his wife.
Both contracted COVID-19 last year, calling it “no big deal.”
“Most of this community’s gotten it, gotten past it, and I think are all better for it,” the husband said.
At the Superstore in Winkler, only a handful of shoppers were masked.
Two employees who spoke to the Free Press said many customers didn’t mask up while the mandate was in effect.
“Most of this community’s gotten it, gotten past it, and I think are all better for it.” – Husband
One of the workers was masked, while the other said she’d regretted going without.
They believe the province moved too quickly in dropping the mandate.
However, they hope the removal of pandemic restrictions will put an end to some of the altercations between customers, staff and those handing out pandemic fines.
“There’s way less stress from customers, but I have the very firm opinion that everyone’s going to be sick by Easter,” one said.
At a nearby Tim Hortons, Nolan Turnbull ordered his coffee and snack while wearing a medical grade mask. He has followed public health orders since Day 1 of the pandemic and got vaccinated as soon as possible.
“I just hope that people are able to be safe moving forward.” – Nolan Turnbull
“I just hope that people are able to be safe moving forward,” he said.
Turnbull, who works in health care, said his decision to wear a mask wasn’t exactly embraced by some members of the community, but he’ll continue to wear it until he feels safe without it.
“When the mask mandates came around, there was certain businesses in certain areas where people would gawk at you and do whatever else for wearing one and that’ll continue too, but I don’t care,” he said. “I care about other people.”
Malak Abas is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.