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While public health officials may give the green light to small household gatherings and a slightly enlarged social circle for people in southern Manitoba, they have suggested restaurants and nail salons must remain closed for the time being.

It’s not that getting together at home with two friends and having a meal is less risky than doing the same at a restaurant — household spread of COVID-19 is common and often asymptomatic, according to Winnipeg-based epidemiologist Cynthia Carr.

It’s permitting people to do both that could spell trouble.

"The one advantage with restaurants is they were controlling how much time you could spend in the restaurant at that table, but you’re still in a risky situation being that you’re sitting together at a table. Obviously, you’re not wearing masks because you’re eating and drinking," said Carr.

"There’s nothing to say that then you wouldn’t go back to one of your homes and visit."

Carr said allowing small gatherings of two people within a household — as Manitoba health officials have proposed — takes into account social and mental health benefits, while keeping overall contact numbers and exposure potential in mind.

"It goes back to, ‘Where are the opportunities for reasonable openings?’ Because there are no zero-risk options," Carr said.

Chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin said Tuesday businesses such as nail salons did not make the first round of reopening considerations based on risk and how "essential" Manitobans consider a service to be.

When it comes to shopping, Roussin said, while people may be gathered in the same vicinity, they are not in close, prolonged contact.

"So we feel that with those tight restrictions, it’s a very prudent response," he said.

Meanwhile, gyms and organized recreation will be looked at in the future, because prolonged, indoor contact is likely in such activities and there is evidence of transmission connected to both youth and adult recreation events, Roussin said.

"We can’t open everything at once. If we open everything at once, we risk seeing those numbers climb and we’re stuck going backwards again," Roussin said.

Danielle Da Silva

Danielle Da Silva

Danielle Da Silva is a general assignment reporter.

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