Manitoba makes state of emergency official


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We are, as Manitobans, in a state of emergency.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 21/03/2020 (881 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

We are, as Manitobans, in a state of emergency.

It probably didn’t require a decree from the premier to get most folks feeling that way, but Brian Pallister made it official on Friday morning when he formally put the province on an emergency footing for at least the next 30 days.

“This… gives us a readiness that we need in these uncertain times,” Mr. Pallister said during the daily COVID-19 briefing. “Understand that this is a temporary measure, and we do not enter into this lightly.”


The declaration, which comes under the Emergency Services Act, activates the province’s authority to enforce measures that had been characterized as “strongly recommended.” Under the state of emergency, the province has the power, among others, to shut down gatherings of more than 50 people, and gives the chief public health officer the authority, under the Public Health Act, to require retail outlets that remain open to ensure safe distances (one to two metres) are maintained between customers, and to impose public safety conditions on public transport and those hospitality premises that have remained open.

Forced closure of fitness and wellness facilities, bingo and gaming events and athletic club activities has also been imposed.

“We are taking these steps to ensure people make changes to their day-to-day lives,” said chief public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin.

Mr. Pallister said the emergency declaration is a necessary step, and that it was issued with full awareness of its potential infringement on “individual rights and freedoms.”

With Friday’s announcement, Manitoba joined Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick, which had declared states of emergency. Some other provinces, including Quebec and Prince Edward Island, had by Friday declared public health emergencies, which do not trigger the same measures and powers as full-blown state-of-emergency declarations.

Manitoba’s declaration is, simply put, the right thing to do. Since the COVID-19 crisis arrived — has it really only been 10 days since the NBA suspended its season and set in motion a cavalcade of cancellations, public health measures and government-issued restrictions across North America? — this province’s authorities have, on balance, reacted prudently and with the requisite measure of celerity.

Friday’s COVID-19 briefing included the announcement of $27.6 million in provincial support for child-care services, with particular emphasis on ensuring daycare is available to front-line workers in health care and other essential services during the pandemic.

There will inevitably be some who, possessed of a more libertarian mindset, will think the province has overstepped with a measure as extreme as a state-of-emergency declaration. Those people would be well advised to re-examine COVID-19’s toll in China and such European locales such as Italy, France and Spain, and then reconsider their objections. The worst is yet to come, and the province’s ability to react swiftly, efficiently and with appropriate force will be crucial in the coming weeks.

Manitoba was, for all intents and purposes, in a state of emergency for several days before Mr. Pallister’s declaration — which was no doubt made with full awareness that political capital might be burned in the process — made it an administrative fact of life. We should trust that the province will employ the powers at its disposal in the public’s best interest, and focus on doing our part as individuals to minimize the pandemic’s local impact.

The more effectively COVID-19’s curve is flattened, the less draconian the province’s emergency measures will need to be.

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