Double-vaccinated Manitobans give 2 thumbs up to movie and museum perks

Double-vaccinated Manitobans are looking forward to extra perks of watching a movie in theatres or visiting a museum as part of the province’s next phase of reopening.

But incentives may not prod people to get shots, health communications expert fears

Manitoba movie-goers can return on Saturday if they've had both of their COVID-19 vaccines. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Double-vaccinated Manitobans are looking forward to extra perks of watching a movie in theatres or visiting a museum as part of the province's next phase of reopening.

Dr. Brent Roussin announced Wednesday a series of loosened restrictions that begin Saturday, including a limit of 150 at outdoor gatherings in public spaces and bars and restaurants being allowed to stay open to midnight, with no more stipulations on having to buy food with drinks.

Those who are fully immunized and masked can visit a museum, see a movie in theatre or go to a concert, as long as the capacity is 50 per cent or less. The pandemic has forced movie theatres to stay closed for most of the past year.

"I think I'll be going for sure. It's been a very very long time," said Esethu Gwintsa, who got her vaccine card Wednesday. "It might be a little nerve-racking at first … just to be in such a confined room with all these random people might be a little scary but definitely if everyone's fully vaccinated I'd feel a little better being in that room."

Esethu Gwintsa says she's excited but a little overwhelmed at the thought of hanging out with others again, and hopes people continue to follow the rules so there isn't a fourth wave. (CBC/Walther Bernal)

Al Schwartz plans to travel by scooter with his double-vaccinated friend Joan to the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, which opens July 27, as they've both received their shots, too.

"It's nice that it's opening up slowly the way it is and people are behaving and doing their part, I think everything is going along very nicely that way," he said.

But even though households can now have up to five visitors indoors, up to 25 outdoors and the same for indoor weddings and funerals, some Manitobans aren't in a rush to change their pandemic lifestyle.

"Personally for me, I still feel like I'm a little bit COVID paranoid so going with big crowds, having friends over things like that is just not going to happen anytime soon I don't think for me," said Janelle Campegne, who visited The Forks with her partner on Wednesday. 

She said even though she's double-vaccinated, she worries about mixing with people who aren't and doesn't want to put her grandmother, who lives in a personal care home, at risk when she visits. 

'Uniquely Manitoba'

The news of limiting movie theatre access to the fully immunized came as a surprise for the CEO of Landmark Cinemas, which has theatres in Winnipeg, Brandon, Selkirk and Winkler. 

"It just doesn't seem equitable to take a private business and an industry overall and say, 'We're going to use you as an incentive,' despite the fact that there's no increased health and safety risk," said Bill Walker.

He added it was a "uniquely Manitoba" decision that hasn't been tried anywhere else in Canada, and although he's excited to finally be reopening the doors again, he has concerns about how some people might react. 

"If someone didn't know that they had to be fully vaccinated to come to the theatre, or frankly is against vaccination and believes that this is infringing on their human rights in some way ... I think it's just another one of those potential interactions that we hope we can kind of avoid," he said. 

Walker said the company has no plans to reopen its theatre in Winkler under the new restrictions, as vaccination rates in that area aren't high enough yet.

Not an effective incentive: Driedger

A University of Manitoba professor who works in the department of community health sciences says the new perks will likely be a "welcomed relief" for those who are already comfortable with getting vaccinated, but won't likely sway or incentivize those who aren't.

"If they're not already convinced that they want to get the vaccine, that in and of itself may not be sufficient to encourage them to do so," said Michelle Driedger, who studies public health communications.

Michelle Driedger is a professor in the department of community health sciences at the U of M, focused on public and health risk communication, risk perception and knowledge translation under uncertain conditions. (Submitted by Michelle Driedger)

Driedger holds focus groups as part of her Canada-wide research on vaccine hesitancy, and says she will anticipate the initiative will spark concern, particularly for those who can't get vaccinated.

"What is the province doing for those? What about for those who have medical contraindications for even being able to get the vaccines?"

Driedger agrees with Walker that people will have issues regarding human rights when they are unable to access places because they haven't been vaccinated.

"Just the mere fact that those rewards are in place for those individuals who are double vaccinated, it will still always raise concerns for those who either don't want to get vaccinated and don't want to have their access to such places necessarily restricted."

She said a more effective strategy to boost vaccine rates in areas where uptake is low is to have local experts, medical professionals and leaders as spokespeople for open, safe conversations with people who have questions.

With files from Erin Brohman, Jim Agapito and Stephen Ripley


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