New rules that allow businesses to reopen, expand outdoor gathering sizes and allow two different households to get together will go into effect Friday.
Premier Brian Pallister and chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin announced the loosened public-health restrictions at a news conference Tuesday, saying the changes are possible because of the province's declining test-positivity and COVID-19 infection rates.
"We shouldn't interpret these reopenings as a reduction in our risk. We were at this place before. We know that if we let our guards down, we're going to see transmission of this virus again, so we all have to be on guard, continue to practise those fundamentals," Roussin said.
The new rules mean Manitobans can designate another household to spend time with indoors, or keep following the current rule that allows two designated visitors. Outdoor gatherings are expanded to 10 people, including outdoor sports and recreation. Businesses are allowed to reopen, except for theatres, concert halls, bingo halls and casinos. Malls and restaurants can open at half capacity, though Manitobans are still required to sit only with members of their own household at restaurants. Churches and places of worship are allowed to open at either 25 per cent capacity or to 100 people, whichever is lower.
The new public health orders will be in effect from Friday until March 25 and will be reviewed before they expire, Roussin said.
He said restaurant rules weren't changed because it's too risky to have people from different households sitting together indoors.
Along with the "cautious changes," Pallister said the province's bridge grant program for small businesses is being extended to give each eligible businesses another $5,000.
The new measures were proposed last week and the government sought public feedback in an online survey. About 25,000 people weighed in since last Thursday, Pallister said.
"Understandably, some of you said, 'You're going too fast,' and some of you said, 'You're not going fast enough,' and to all Manitobans, I know we can't please all of you, that'd be the surest way to fail, my dad used to say, but the fact of the matter is, we are going to continue to proceed and we are going to continue to proceed with caution," he said.
Katie May reports on courts, crime and justice for the Free Press.