The health district with the lowest vaccine uptake rate in Manitoba has decided to cancel its block party program because COVID-19 cases are expected to rise.
The Rural Municipality of Stanley, near Winkler, launched a program to encourage residents to hold block parties; it provided hosts with free party packages including invitations, outdoor games kits and coupons for food.
Block parties that have been scheduled will be allowed, but the municipality has stopped taking new applications.
"With Manitoba public health's prediction of increased COVID-19 cases in the coming weeks, council has decided to postpone the block party program at this time," reads a statement on the council website.
In the municipality, 22.1 per cent of eligible residents have received at least their first dose, making it the district with the lowest vaccination rate in the province.
Some residents were shocked to hear the municipality had encouraged gatherings, including Ashley Hoitink, a teacher who said she was relieved by the decision to halt the parties.
"I’m glad they decided to postpone the block (parties)," she said. "It's unfortunate they still went ahead with some gatherings for over two weeks, knowing that a fourth wave is coming."
Stanley reeve Morris Olafson did not respond to the Free Press, but told PembinaValleyonline the program was well-received.
"We're talking about small groups, we're talking about neighbours on a street, their kids play together all the time, and they work together," said Olafson. "We're not mixing a whole waft of people from all over the province, and all over Canada, into this big perceived big turkey. We were very well-meaning when we started this one, and I'm sticking to my guns on that one."