Manitoba to shut down non-critical services April 1 to slow spread of COVID-19

All non-critical services in Manitoba must close for two weeks at the beginning of April to prevent spreading the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, public health officials announced Monday.

Bars, hair salons and massage therapy offices to shut down; restaurants banned from dine-in service on April 1

Shared Health chief nursing officer Lanette Siragusa and chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin continue to update Manitobans daily about the COVID-19 situation. (Gary Solilak/CBC)

All non-critical services in Manitoba must close for two weeks at the beginning of April to prevent spreading the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, public health officials announced Monday.

As of April 1, bars, hair salons and massage therapy offices will shut down, and restaurants are officially banned from serving eat-in service — though many had already taken the measure of serving delivery or takeout on their own.

The order also allows people to do repairs, provide security services, or take items out of a closed business establishment, if that business is going to operate on a remote basis.

"This announcement is not the easy thing to do, but it is the right thing to do," Premier Brian Pallister said.

"This is not a sprint — this is a marathon. And we have to make the necessary steps now to make sure that we keep that slope on [COVID-19] down."

As of 9:30 a.m. Monday, 24 new cases of COVID-19 were identified in Manitoba, bringing the total number of confirmed and probable cases to 96.

Among the patients, four people are in hospital — one in intensive care — and two people who had the illness have recovered, according to public health officials.

Last week, Manitoba suffered its first death related to COVID-19.

Though the end date for closures is currently April 14, that could be extended if the COVID-19 situation in Manitoba worsens, said chief public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin.

Elana Greene, a Winnipeg massage therapist, said she agrees with the shutdown order even though she will have no income during the hiatus.

"I need to do this to protect other people so if I have to pick between my frustration and saving lives, I'd much rather be frustrated and make sure people around me are healthy and happy," said Greene, who was working up until today.

Some massage therapists and hair-salon owners had expressed frustration there was no order for their industries, which can not practice physical distancing.

Massage therapist Elana Greene said she agrees with the shutdown even as it deprives her of income. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

Broad list of essential services

Though Monday's order sounds dark and gloomy, it in fact still allows a broad list of businesses in various industries to remain open, at least operate remotely, assuming the people there maintain at least two metres of separation between them.

The list, which is available online, is based on the advice of business leaders in the province, but changes could be made in the future, said Pallister.

The province also looked at how other provinces introduced this type of measure, Roussin said.

"It's really to ensure that we have the necessary goods and services still available to Manitobans, while at the same time enhancing our messaging about social distancing, and closing those non-essential, non-critical services," he said.

WATCH | Manitoba is ordering non-essential businesses to close:

Shut down of non-critical services April 1

2 years ago
Duration 2:19
All non-critical services must close April 1-14 in Manitoba to limit the spread of COVID-19, chief public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin announced Monday.

Health-care providers can continue to provide emergent or urgent care such as dental surgery as well. Mental health or addictions services, as well as counselling, are also deemed essential.

No manufacturers are affected, the province said.

Delivery services for all levels of government are also unaffected by the order, and publicly-funded agencies that provide or support government operations are also unaffected.

Public transit, taxis and other private vehicles for hire are unaffected, although the driver must ensure there is a "reasonable separation" between people in the vehicle.

There is no specific distance, because it would vary on the size of each vehicle.

Businesses that sell food or household items, such as grocery and hardware stores, and bakeries, will remain open. People involved in food production and safety, such as farmers, are also still in operation.

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Pet stores, gas stations, office supply providers, liquor and cannabis shops and businesses that provide personal workplace protective equipment or clothing will remain open.

Accommodations businesses, maintenance and repair services, media companies, telecommunications and IT services will continue operating as well.

Construction and utilities companies, researchers, financial companies and services such as banks, and environmental services including garbage pickup and exterminators are included too.

Dealerships and rental lots continue to operate, as do dry cleaning and laundry services, tax help, temp agencies, postal services, lawn care, agencies that take care of animals, and travel consultants.

Natural resource extraction was also considered essential, which includes the mining operations in northern Manitoba.

"It's been customary in other jurisdictions as well that that's been the case," Pallister said. "For Flin Flon, this is a good example of where the reasonableness of decision-making to suit Manitobans shows up." 

Pallister also said that many people from Creighton, Sask., a nearby border community, visit Flin Flon often, so it would be inefficient for both communities to make people self-isolate for that type of travel.

Provincial rent help for businesses up in the air

Last Friday, the federal government boosted its wage subsidy for small and medium-sized businesses by 75 per cent, and guaranteed that small business loans of up to $40,000 would be interest-free for the first year. This should help avoid laying off staff or businesses from shutting down entirely.

Forced closures spanning at least two weeks — after already at least discontinuing some services, or seeing a decrease in demand — may put some businesses in dire situations financially, however, especially come rent time.

Last week, Pallister announced rent freezes, and that most eviction hearings are being postponed until May 31. But the premier said Monday that the province is waiting for further details about Friday's federal announcement before instituting any assistance.

"We have thousands and thousands of businesses in Manitoba, each with different rental or lease agreements — some of whom own their own properties and have mortgage payments — and the cash flow demands on small business are very real," said Pallister.

The province is waiting to learn more about federal assistance programs before offering its own help to small businesses, Pallister said Monday. (John Woods/The Canadian Press)

"There's not a lot of point of working without [provincial and federal] cooperation because if we have programs that are confusing, then small businesses won't know how to get help."

Businesses and non-profit organizations who suffer a revenue drop of at least 30 per cent due to COVID-19 can qualify for the federal wage subsidy program, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Monday.

Though there will be "serious consequences" for anyone who abuses the system, Trudeau added.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau will provide even more details on Tuesday.

Supply chain may be strained in future

Health care providers currently have enough supplies to perform their duties, but that could change, Manitoba's chief nursing officer Lanette Siragusa said during Monday's COVID-19 update.

"The requirements and challenges that we face change daily," Siragusa said. "We have to continue to take every step to make sure that we maintain preparation for a virus that has overwhelmed health systems in other parts of the world."

WATCH | Supplies may be harder to get, Siragusa says:

Supplies may be harder to get in future, says Siragusa

2 years ago
Duration 1:15
Chief nursing officer Lanette Siragusa says health care workers currently have the supplies they need. But they may be harder to acquire in the future, because of production complications and a spike in demand.

Closed borders, stalled production in certain countries, and a sudden spike in demand are challenges that are already starting to confront the health care system's supply chain, Siragusa said.

To put things in perspective, Siragusa said the people in charge of purchasing supplies typically deal with 60 to 70 vendors at a time. They're currently dealing with roughly 600 vendors, to ensure Manitoba health care workers have what they need.

"For any company who has supplies on hand — even if you're not sure if they would be useful — we'd be happy to connect with you," she said.

WATCH | Full news conference on COVID-19 | March 30, 2020:

Manitoba government daily briefing on coronavirus: March 30

2 years ago
Duration 1:04:00
Provincial officials give update on COVID-19 outbreak: Monday, March 30, 2020.

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With files from Bartley Kives