Manitobans eager for some fresh-air socializing when slightly eased restrictions take effect
Starting Saturday, new public health orders will allow busier golf courses, backyards
The phones at the St. Boniface Golf Club are ringing off the hook, as avid golfers look to get outside with people they don't live with this weekend when new public health orders take effect.
Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba's chief provincial public health officer, announced a slight easing of public health restrictions Wednesday. As of June 12, Manitobans can gather outdoors in groups of as many as five people.
Golf was still possible under the current restrictions, but groups could only consist of people from a single household. That will change on Saturday, when friends who don't live together can finally form foursomes again.
"I'm excited that our tee sheets are packed solid for the next few days," said Steve Wood, the director of golf operations at St. Boniface Golf Club.
"All the golfers have kind of been chomping at the bit to get back at it."
Over the past few weeks, Wood says St. Boniface has seen smaller groups of golfers playing rounds by themselves or with family members. But once the eased restrictions were announced, Wood said, the club started to receive weekend bookings for full foursomes again.
"For the most part, everybody's looking forward to getting back out and socializing with other people," he said.
"Golfers will play golf no matter what. However, they love the opportunity to get out with their friends… It's just more fun with more people."
The slight loosening brings some relief to David Cannon, who spent part of Wednesday afternoon at Happyland Park with his daughters Eloise and Odette.
"We're very glad. It's going to be nice to see friends a little bit closer again, and family as well," Cannon said.
He noted that the past several weeks have been difficult, but he's grateful that his job has allowed him to work from home and that their property has a yard for the kids to play in.
The slight easing of restrictions hopefully means the family can meet with others for a backyard bonfire — or visit the in-laws to take advantage of their new pool, he said.
The new rules will allow families to invite as many as five visitors to their private property, such as a backyard, but those visitors must come from no more than two other households. If the gathering takes place on public property, the five people can come from five different households.
Restaurants still closed to in-person dining
The restrictions on gatherings are the only rules that will budge. Indoor gatherings will still be prohibited, retail is still capped at 10 per cent or 100 customers (whichever is lower) and only one person per household can enter a business.
Many businesses and organizations, such as barbers, gyms and restaurants, are still closed to the public.
Some restaurant operators in Winnipeg's Osborne Village area are unfazed by that.
"It didn't change anything at all," said Huy Lam, supervisor of Rollesque and Pho Hoang.
When the restaurant had previously returned to dine-in service, customers simply switched from apps like DoorDash to coming to the restaurant in-person, he said.
Lam does miss the customers, however, because they were friendly and made the restaurant feel cozy, he said.
Down the street at Gong Cha, a bubble tea establishment, manager Hannah Huyen also misses interacting with customers.
But she recognizes that many customers prefer sipping on their bubble tea at home during the pandemic, she said.
"It's less busy, but at least we can still run the business," said Huyen, adding that the restaurant feels eerily quiet compared to the bustle in Osborne Village during pre-pandemic times.
"When everyone is fully vaccinated, then we'll have to seat our customers again."
Although the health orders are being slightly loosened to allow for outdoor gatherings with people from other households, Manitoba officials are urging the public to limit the number of people they interact with as much as possible.
Physical distancing and masks should be worn when interacting with people not from the same household, even when outdoors, officials say.
The new public health orders will be in effect for at least two weeks.
With files from Sam Samson