Western Canada, northwestern Ontario travel restrictions may be lifted in Manitoba's next reopening phase

The next phase of Manitoba's COVID-19 reopening plan, tentatively planned for June 21, could drop the province's mandatory 14-day quarantine for some out-of-province travellers.

Gathering sizes, daycare and day camp capacities could all go up as soon as June 21

A vehicle stopped at a checkpoint at the Manitoba-Ontario border in March, where officials were handing out information about COVID-19. (Travis Golby/CBC)

Isolation requirements could end this month for some visitors to Manitoba, bringing the province in line with most others.

The next phase of Manitoba's COVID-19 reopening plan, tentatively planned for June 21, could drop the province's mandatory 14-day quarantine for people coming from British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, northwestern Ontario and all three territories.

Gathering sizes could increase to 50 indoors and 100 outdoors in Phase 3 as well, Premier Brian Pallister said at a news conference announcing the draft plan on Thursday morning.

The plan also touches on rules for spaces including schools, daycares, restaurants and golf courses.

"It's the time to do it, because Manitobans deserve to be rewarded for the vast, vast majority doing the right things to help us win this battle," Pallister said.

But Manitoba could bring those restrictions back if the data suggests the province's COVID-19 situation is getting worse, the premier said.

WATCH | Manitoba eyeing Phase 3 reopening:

The next phase of Manitoba's COVID-19 reopening could tentatively be planned for June 21. 2:33

"We have to be ready, if need be, to reverse and reimpose some restrictions if COVID begins to make a significant comeback."

Pallister said the province will start the relaxed travel rules with places you can travel to by car, but is open to input on whether other regions, like the Maritimes, should also be included in the eased restrictions. 

For travellers coming to Manitoba from northwestern Ontario, the line for exactly where in that province the isolation requirements could be lifted is still undecided, Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin said at a news conference later Thursday.

"Things that we want to consider [include] the likelihood of people travelling to those higher risk areas [in Ontario] and then back to, say, northwestern Ontario," he said.

Anyone coming into the province from Western Canada or northwestern Ontario could be allowed to travel directly to parks, campgrounds, cabins, lodges and resorts north of the 53rd parallel from within Manitoba.

Spiritual and cultural gatherings (including powwows and church services) could include more people if they are in different rooms or separate, well-spaced groups that don't mingle, each having fewer than 50 people, the proposed plan says. With such groupings, they would be allowed a maximum of 300 people.

Schools plan for fall

The province will keep a close eye on whether the percentage of positive test results and the number of overall cases stay low, and whether Manitoba continues to have high capacity in its health-care system, Roussin said.

Officials will also keep a close eye on community transmission (COVID-19 cases without a clear link to travel or other known cases) in the province.

"So if we saw that there was a certain region [in Manitoba] that was seeing community-based transmission as opposed to other regions, then that might make us take some targeted action in that area, but we're not at that point yet. We have very low numbers," Roussin said.

The proposed plan also allows daycares to resume operating at regular capacity, and day camps to increase capacity to 50.

While the draft says kindergarten to Grade 12 schools can now actively plan for the fall, Pallister said dialogue and planning will continue and did not say whether there will be a return to in-class education come September.

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister announced a draft for Phase 3 of the province's reopening on Thursday. (John Woods/The Canadian Press)

"I don't want to prejudge where we'll be in the fall … because I just don't know where the COVID numbers will be," he said.

Post-secondary schools can also plan for hands-on learning and research this fall, such as in-person labs, studio work, trades instruction and practicums, the draft plan says.

They can also open with strategies like more video-based learning to reduce class sizes and allow physical distancing, it says, but those decisions will be made by the schools "based on their unique layout and plans."

Seniors centres and clubs may be advised to "consider further limiting group sizes from the allowed limit of 50 people indoors, to 25 people or one person per 10 square metres," whichever is fewer.

The plan also proposes dropping the mandatory two-week self-isolation period for people coming to Manitoba who are affiliated with a professional sports team or a film production.

That would apply as long as they have self-isolated for 14 days before arriving in the province and follow appropriate hygiene measures while travelling. 

"We have the defending Grey Cup champions here. We would like them to do that again for the second time. We want to make sure that we do it safely," Pallister said.

That exemption would only apply to those coming from within Canada. People coming from outside the country for any reason would still need to follow federal quarantine rules, Roussin said.

Phase 3 plan not final

The draft plan also proposes letting people employed by or affiliated with a film production to come to Manitoba without needing to self-isolate for 14 days, as long as they've self-isolated for two weeks before getting here.

Occupancy limits at restaurants, bars, beverage rooms, brew pubs, microbreweries and distilleries may also be increased to 75 per cent of total capacity indoors and on patios, while occupancy limits for retail stores could be removed entirely if physical distancing measures are in place.

Permanent outdoor amusement parks also could be allowed to operate at 50 per cent of their usual capacity. The draft also proposes changes for golfers, who would be allowed four people per group and two per golf cart.

Indoor recreation centres would be allowed to operate at 50 per cent of their usual capacity. That includes all non-smoking sites with VLT lounges, bingo halls, billiard rooms and other indoor amusement centres, the draft says.

For regulated and non-regulated health professions, including registered massage therapists, occupancy limits could also be lifted.

Casinos and movie theatres are on the horizon for reopening, but they're not in the current plan. Easing of those restrictions will depend on how the next phase of the reopening goes, Pallister said.

"We are trying to move safely forward. We don't want to have to move backward," he said.

Roussin said Manitoba's reopening plan is based on finding ways to live with the virus while lowering — but not eliminating — the risk of its spread.

Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba's chief public health officer, speaks during a COVID-19 update at the Manitoba Legislative Building. (John Woods/The Canadian Press)

"We're never going to be in a zero-risk situation," he said. "It's not going to be just next month, or just a month or two. It's going to be for quite some time, going to be likely a year or more, that we need to learn how to live with this virus."

The draft plan announced on Thursday is not final, and the province is open to consultation on it, Pallister said. The province is hoping for input from the public by the end of the day Tuesday.

"Manitobans who are concerned about that and think we're going too fast, or those who think we are going too slow are welcome to comment," he said.

Manitoba started Phase 2 of its reopening on June 1, allowing most businesses that were forced to close their doors because of the coronavirus to reopen, including restaurants, gyms and seniors centres.

There have been 300 cases of COVID-19 reported in Manitoba. There was no one in hospital and there were seven active cases on Thursday, which was the sixth straight day with no new cases in the province. Seven people have died.

WATCH | Premier Brian Pallister on COVID-19 measures in the province | June 11, 2020:

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister announced a draft plan for Phase 3 of the reopening. 33:00


  • An earlier version said casinos and theatres may be in Phase 3. In fact, they may be in future phases.
    Jun 11, 2020 12:35 PM CT


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