July 9, 2020

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More freedom, commerce in Manitoba starting Monday: Pallister

Uptown Alley's Nathan Hogg, manager (left) and Todd Britton, co-owner, are getting ready to reopen with strict new measures in place. (John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press)

Uptown Alley's Nathan Hogg, manager (left) and Todd Britton, co-owner, are getting ready to reopen with strict new measures in place. (John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press)

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Take a bow and polish your bowling ball, Manitobans.

Premier Brian Pallister announced Phase 2 of the province's reopening plan will proceed Monday. Thanks to Manitobans who've successfully contained the spread of COVID-19, it is more expansive than projected, he said.

"My faith and confidence in Manitobans has been heartened and strengthened as we've continued to keep that COVID curve flat," the premier said at a Wednesday morning teleconference.

The province released a 26-page report explaining how Manitoba is ready for most businesses and services to reopen at a reduced capacity — including bowling alleys, initially not on the list until later in the summer.

"We were expecting to be part of the Phase 3 reopening," said Nathan Hogg, a manager at Uptown Alley in Winnipeg. "It's taken everybody by surprise."

Uptown doesn't expect to be ready for a Monday reopening, but is aiming for later in the week. It has already begun booking online reservations and is prepared to do more than just meet public health guidelines, he said.

"We plan on taking things beyond what's necessary," Hogg said.

On the list: only opening every other lane, so groups don't share the space or balls with strangers; sanitizing chairs, tables and balls after each group is done.

"It's a lot of work, but we want to get back at it," he said.

With zero positive cases in the last five days, 14 active cases province-wide, and the percentage of people testing positive for COVID-19 below zero, Manitoba is in a good position, said Pallister.

Premier Brian Pallister today announced that Phase 2 of the province's plan to reopen the economy and other aspects of society will take effect Monday. (Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press files)

Premier Brian Pallister today announced that Phase 2 of the province's plan to reopen the economy and other aspects of society will take effect Monday. (Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press files)

"We are prepared for the worst," the premier said. COVID-19 testing, contact tracing and capacity in the health-care system have been strengthened, he said.

The 26-page "Restoring Safe Services Phase 2" report says testing volumes are expected to increase to 1,000 per day, with the ability to test 3,000/day, if needed.

More than 30 per cent of hospital medicine and ICU beds are available. Urgent care and emergency room visits by people with flu-like symptoms are low: fewer than 85 in the past five days.

"We have the ability to respond if there is a re-surge," said Pallister.

With more people potentially travelling around the province, interacting, and engaging in activities, there's the possibility there will be some community transmission of the virus, he said. "Don't panic if we start getting some positive tests."

The premier noted there's a "danger" in not proceeding with the reopening, including a mental health impact.

That's why, although seniors are among the most at-risk groups for serious COVID-19 complications, senior centres are allowed to reopen Monday.

Restrictions at long-term care homes, however, remain in effect. Staff are allowed to work at only one such home to prevent the possible spread of the virus; only outdoor visits are allowed.

In order to protect vulnerable First Nations, northern Manitoba is still off limits to non-residents, except for travellers going directly to tourist destinations.

"We're trying to strike the right balance," the premier said. "I emphasize we must remain vigilant... We do not want a COVID comeback in this province and there's no room for complacency."

The province's Phase 2 report was blunt about what will happen if the June 1 reopening does not go well: "The Manitoba government will not proceed with further easing of public health measures and may reintroduce others."

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders
Reporter

Carol Sanders’ reporting on newcomers to Canada has made international headlines, earned national recognition but most importantly it’s shared the local stories of the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home.

Read full biography

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History

Updated on Wednesday, May 27, 2020 at 6:32 PM CDT: full write-thru, additional formatting

12:15 AM: Fixes typo.

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