Ten long weeks of social isolation will come to an end for some Manitobans on Saturday as public health orders open the door for household visits — but the new freedom comes with significant limitations.
On Thursday, the province announced it was relaxing a ban on household gatherings by allowing Manitobans — with the exception of those who live in the north — to have two designated guests inside their home.
But what, exactly, does that mean?
Dr. Jazz Atwal, the province’s acting deputy chief public health officer, attempted to clear up the confusion at a news conference Friday.
He said members of a household, whether it's two people or six, have to collectively pick two people — a friend or family member or one of each — who are allowed inside their home at any time over the next 21 days, the length of the province’s latest public health orders.
Once the two visitors have stepped foot inside, the decision cannot be reversed.
OK, but what if those two designated people are visiting a household of four people; can they, in turn, host those same four people at their home?
Plain and simply, no. "The order is two people that are designated that can enter a home and vice versa… those people can’t have a family back over at their house. It has to be two people," Atwal said.
Do kids count as visitors?
Atwal said that children — even infants — count as designated visitors. For instance, two parents and their two children cannot all visit inside someone else’s home.
"We want to limit interactions," Atwal said. "If it’s a parent and one child that goes (and) visits, let’s say grandparents and they’re the designated people, that’s OK. That is the spirit of the order. Hence, those grandparents can visit the two parents and those two kids in the family of four home."
Do households have to be mutually exclusive?
Technically, no. Under the order, it is permissible that the two people designated to visit your home could designate two different people to visit their home.
But the province cautioned against that.
Atwal said the province recommends that people establish a small social bubble between two homes.
"We want the same people interacting, we don’t want a number of different households interacting. We don’t want two people going to 10 different homes on a regular basis," Atwal said. "Keep it simple. This is important.
"If you’re (in) someone’s bubble, we want them to be part of your bubble and that’s it," Atwal said. "There’s a lot of questions out there. I think some of the questions are related to how to almost skirt the order. The principle here is two people, they’re designated, it’s the same two people. Period."
Outdoor private gatherings
Backyard bevvies with friends and playdates in the yard are now OK. Changes to the order include allowing outdoor gatherings of up to five guests on private property.
The province has not offered any guidance for private outdoor gatherings beyond the fundamentals of physical distancing, handwashing and staying home when sick.
Here’s what the order says:
"In the case of an outdoor gathering on the property on which a private residence is located, all persons who reside at that residence are not to be included when calculating the number of persons at that outdoor gathering."
Hair salons and ‘therapeutic health’ practitioners to reopen with limits
When visiting your hairstylist, services will be limited to washing, cutting, colouring or styling of hair on a person’s head, Atwal said. No waxing and no nail treatments.
Members of the public have to be separated from each other by two metres – or have a "non-permeable physical barrier" between them — and capacity in the business cannot exceed 25 per cent, or one member of the public, whichever is higher.
Operators must collect contact information from clients and keep it on file for 21 days.
As of Saturday, businesses can offer Reiki treatment, and pedorthists and reflexologists can resume services in person.
Again, the public needs to be separated from each other by two metres and capacity in the business cannot exceed 25 per cent, or one member of the public, whichever is higher. Operators must collect contact information from clients and keep it on file for 21 days.
In store shopping for "non-essential" items is once again permitted. Shopping malls have to limit overall capacity to 25 per cent and put in measures to distance people by two metres. Retail businesses can open at 25 per cent capacity or with 250 people maximum, whichever is less.
Danielle Da Silva
Danielle Da Silva is a general assignment reporter.