No private gatherings starting Wednesday as Manitoba tries to 'dampen the third wave': Pallister
Get-togethers still allowed in parks, but food courts must close, among other stricter rules
Most Manitobans will no longer be allowed to have visitors at their homes — indoors or outdoors — for at least four weeks as COVID-19 cases continue to rise, officials say.
Outdoor gatherings in public places will also be capped at 10, and changes are coming to the retail, restaurant and recreational sectors and faith-based gatherings, Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin said at a news conference Monday.
The restrictions will come into effect Wednesday to "dampen the third wave," Premier Brian Pallister said, and extend beyond the May long weekend.
"We're at a very critical point, not without precedent," Pallister said.
The variants are a new variable at play, he said, calling out a gathering of hundreds of anti-maskers in Winnipeg on the weekend as an example of how some aren't taking the current threats seriously.
"It's clear that some Manitobans have forgotten about those fundamentals, and as a consequence, we are where we are."
Patio, faith gatherings reduced
Outdoor patio dining at restaurants will be restricted to four people, with no household restrictions, and shopping mall food courts will be closed.
There's been no change for indoor dining at restaurants, which can operate at 50 per cent capacity, with patrons only allowed to dine in with members of the same household.
Faith-based gatherings are also being reduced, with capacity limited to 10 people or 25 per cent, whichever is lower. Indoor mask use is mandatory at all times. Previously worshippers could take off their masks as long as they were seated and distanced from people outside their household.
People who live alone may still have one designated visitor.
The clampdown on gathering sizes comes as health officials have warned of rising cases, test positivity rates and average numbers of close contacts per positive case.
WATCH | Roussin speaks about the rapid growth of Manitoba's COVID-19 case count:
The seven-day average is just shy of 200, more than double what it was a month ago.
The test positivity rate hit 7.6 per cent provincially on Monday — the highest it's been since early February. The rate reached 8.2 per cent in Winnipeg, where the majority of new cases are emerging.
Recreation and fitness centres can stay open, with some tweaks.
Gyms can operate at 25 per cent of capacity, but people will now have to stay at least three metres away from each other.
Only one spectator per youth participant will be allowed to watch outdoor sports, with two-metre distancing.
Music, dance and theatre schools can continue at 25 per cent of capacity, but the latest restrictions now cap the number of people on site at 10, with a maximum of one parent or guardian per youth in the class, and everyone at least two metres apart.
Retail stores can stay open at 25 per cent of capacity or a maximum of 250 customers, whichever is lower. Malls are also limited to 25 per cent of capacity.
Personal service businesses can stay open at 50 per cent of capacity by appointment only.
Enforcement will also be enhanced, with a focus on ensuring people are obeying self-isolation requirements.
Day camps are allowed with a maximum of 10 children, indoors or out.
WATCH | Roussin explains why schools are still open for in-person learning in Manitoba:
There are no new provincial restrictions for schools, though several have already gone back to remote learning due to recent positive cases. Roussin said cases investigations in positive students suggest they're mainly contracting the illness in the community during play dates and gatherings with other youth.
Manitoba also announced two more vaccine priority hot spots — all of the Northern Health Region and an area of northwestern Winnipeg that includes The Maples, Amber Trails, Mandalay West and Old Kildonan-Rosser.
Anyone 18 and up living in those areas is now eligible for vaccination, as well as many who work in those areas.
"It's a race between variants and vaccines," Pallister said, and elsewhere in the country "variants are winning."
Cases of more contagious coronavirus variants are rising, mainly in Winnipeg.
A variant of interest initially detected in India may now be in Manitoba due to travel, Roussin said, though that hasn't been officially confirmed yet. Three other variants are already in the province, with the B117 variant originally detected in the U.K. the most common.
'Did everything we could'
Vaccinations have ramped up as the province's COVID-19 outlook worsened in the 2½ weeks since Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of the provincial vaccine rollout, said Manitoba was in its third wave.
Cases continued to rise after April 16, when Dr. Jazz Atwal, acting deputy chief provincial public health officer, said officials were "comfortable" with where things were.
A few days later officials announced tightened rules around gathering sizes. Roussin described that as the province's "last chance" to slow the spread and avoid full lockdown measures.
"We really did everything we could with those restrictions to try not to have to go backwards," Roussin said Monday. "Now as we see this trajectory, we're right back to where we were in October and November, so we have to make that more difficult decision to even restrict further."
Experts and several prominent current and former Manitobans have called for stricter pandemic measures to avoid severe suffering during the third wave.
WATCH | Roussin says new rules could be the last of Manitoba's strict lockdowns — if they're followed:
WATCH | Full news conference on COVID-19 | April 26, 2021: