14-day quarantine will be mandatory for all entering Manitoba
Order takes aim at non-essential travel by land and by air
Anyone entering Manitoba, including people coming from Western Canada, will have to self-isolate for 14 days starting Friday.
Manitoba's public health orders will be amended to include the travel restriction, Premier Brian Pallister announced Tuesday.
"These measures are necessary to protect us from a more deadly version of the coronavirus that is not, as some would sadly hope, a short-term thing," he said.
The travel restriction is designed to stop non-essential travel, by land or by air, and applies to people visiting the province and returning Manitobans.
The order is being made out of an abundance of caution, in response to the "real danger" of COVID-19 variants, Pallister said.
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Manitobans who are currently out of the province have until 11:59 p.m. Thursday to return without having to self-isolate. If they arrive after that, they'll have to quarantine for two weeks.
That includes people entering from northern and Western Canada and from west of Terrace Bay in Ontario, who did not have to self-isolate under previous health orders.
Current exemptions to self-isolation measures are still in effect, including those travelling for essential interprovincial work and people travelling for medical reasons.
People living in border communities travelling to another province for essential reasons, such as to get groceries, are also exempt, Pallister said.
WATCH | 14-day quarantine mandatory for all entering Manitoba:
There is no proposed end date for the travel restrictions.
Public health officials are concerned about the risks a COVID-19 variant could pose in Manitoba.
"Early analysis shows, depending on the study you're reading, that it can be up to 70 per cent more communicable and have the same impacts on morbidity, mortality and hospitalizations, if not worse, depending on what study we're looking at, compared to what we have in the community right now," acting deputy chief public health officer Dr. Jazz Atwal said in a conference call on Tuesday.
"We want to try to get ahead of it. We want to try to protect Manitobans, right? We want to ensure that those things are in place that mitigate that risk of that virus coming into Manitoba and if it does come into Manitoba, that we're able to respond to it quickly."
The premier is also calling on the federal government to bring in additional restrictions and enforcement for international travellers coming into the country.
"Stepping up the rules around travel, making sure there's additional enforcement are critical to this," Pallister said.
"Premiers have been urging the federal government on these measures for some time, and now I'm encouraged to hear word that the federal government may be proposing to take some action in the very near future."
Pallister said he wishes he had taken more steps to enforce public health measures earlier.
"If I have a regret from last year, I would suggest it was that we were trying too hard to educate, perhaps, and not enough maybe to make it clear that there are serious consequences if you don't want to abide by the rules," he said.
"We don't want to make those mistakes again. We want to learn from them."
Opposition NDP Leader Wab Kinew is on board with the premier's announcement.
"I apologize to Manitobans if this is the reason why it's so cold out right now, because you have the premier and I agreeing on something for once," Kinew told reporters during a scrum Tuesday.
While he believes the travel restrictions are a good move, Kinew urged the Pallister government to go a step further and spend more on health care, in anticipation of coronavirus variants which are being reported in other provinces.
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With the second wave of the pandemic came a spike in hospitalizations and patients who required critical care. To prevent similar or further strain on Manitoba's health-care system, Kinew says the province needs to ensure intensive care units have the resources they need, such as ventilators, beds and staff.
"While we have this period of time, perhaps, that these travel restrictions could buy us before variants potentially arrive in Manitoba, let's use that time to build up the health-care system, particularly in those areas where we saw this fall and winter that were barely hanging on," he said.
Manitoba Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont also supports the restrictions, but wants to see increased testing for people who must travel interprovincially once the travel restrictions come into effect later this week, to try detecting the presence of COVID-19 variants before they can spread.
"Even if we close the borders, there are still going to be people coming through," said Lamont, citing people travelling through the airport and truckers as examples.
"We need to make sure that we are testing for these variants, because that is the key to preventing a third wave in Manitoba."
With files from Ian Froese and Nicholas Frew