Manitoba to limit restaurants, gyms, theatres, sporting events to fully vaccinated people
After yanking some privileges attached to vaccine card, Manitoba imposing a stricter mandate than before
Manitoba is introducing a sweeping vaccine mandate that will restrict restaurants, fitness centres, theatres and ticketed sporting events, starting Sept. 3, to only people who show proof of vaccination.
The province will also reinstate its mask mandate in all indoor public places, including schools, as of Saturday, Dr. Brent Roussin announced on Friday.
Manitoba punched a hole in its vaccine card earlier this month when it scrapped the immunization condition for indoor restaurant dining with non-household members, among other events and activities.
But now Manitoba is requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination in more places than ever before, as the province responds to the threat posed by the looming fourth wave of the pandemic.
"The emergence of the delta variant has changed things significantly. Now public health officials tell us the pandemic is one of the unimmunized," Health Minister Audrey Gordon said at the news briefing.
More than 406,000 Manitobans have not been vaccinated, including nearly 230,000 children who are not eligible, she said.
"We need to do everything we can to protect them from COVID-19, especially as they return to school," Gordon said.
The new vaccine mandate will impact restaurant patrons both indoors and outdoors. This restriction is more severe than the temporary measure earlier in the summer, when guests only had to prove immunization to dine indoors with people they didn't live with.
As well, indoor and outdoor ticketed sporting events and concerts will remain exclusive to people who have been fully vaccinated for at least two weeks. The vaccination requirement returns for movie theatres, casinos, bingo halls, VLT lounges, nightclubs and all other licensed premises. The same goes for indoor theatre, dance and symphony events.
Vaccination required to work out at gyms
For the first time, proof of vaccination will be required to visit fitness centres, gyms and indoor sporting and recreational facilities. Youth recreational sports are excluded, but parents, coaches and staff will have to be vaccinated.
Unlike the early summer, people can visit museums and art galleries without proving their immunization status.
Children 11 and younger can attend places exclusive to fully vaccinated people if they are with a fully immunized adult.
The businesses, services and events impacted by the new vaccine mandate will face no capacity limits, health officials said.
Staff working at these businesses will not have to be vaccinated, but Roussin strongly recommended it.
WATCH | Vaccine rates need to be higher, health minister says:
The strict measures are bound to be unpopular in some circles, including in the Southern Health region, where less than a quarter of residents are fully vaccinated in a few communities.
Two MLAs with the Progressive Conservatives — James Teitsma and Josh Guenter — also slammed their government for mandating vaccines, which Guenter described as a "sledgehammer" that discourages his constituents from rolling up their sleeves. It's been rare for any Tory MLA to publicly call out the government until recently.
Health Minister Audrey Gordon said she's encouraged by the 76.2 per cent of eligible Manitobans who are fully vaccinated and the 81.7 per cent who have received at least one dose, but higher rates are needed to beat the pandemic.
Asked to respond to critics of the widespread measure, Gordon spoke of a young girl in her constituency who must be separated from her friends by a fence when they play outside.
"I think that speaks volumes to what we need to do as Manitobans to protect individuals like this little girl, who is at risk because she's under the age of 12 of getting COVID, and ensuring that our health-care system is not overwhelmed," Gordon said.
In regions with low vaccination rates, Roussin, the province's top doctor, said a mixture of education, enforcement and incentives must be in play. He said increasing the privileges associated with possessing a vaccine card will hopefully motivate people.
"This is the benefit of this system," Roussin said. "In these areas that have mandatory vaccine requirements, we're not putting any other restrictions in place, so we can have the vast majority of adult Manitobans taking part in activities without restrictions, other than the requirement to be vaccinated."
As an example, the ban on dancing at nightclubs will be lifted.
Roussin didn't rule out the potential for a regional approach in the future.
Earlier this week, the province announced it will require most provincial health-care employees, teachers and child-care workers to be fully vaccinated, or undergo testing up to three times a week. Those workers have until Oct. 17 to receive two vaccine doses.
On Wednesday, the province reported more than 100 cases in a single day for the first time since June.
Pandemic modelling suggests Manitoba's intensive care units could be overwhelmed within weeks if no health measures are put in place to control the spread.
WATCH | Full news conference on COVID-19 | Aug. 27, 2021: