Travel restrictions for visitors from eastern provinces stay in place after pushback from Manitobans
Manitoba officials announced updated Phase 4 plans, 1 new COVID-19 case on Thursday
The province of Manitoba is postponing some of its plans to ease restrictions put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19, in response to feedback to its proposals.
The government's draft plan for Phase 4 of reopening, which was released earlier this week, had proposed relaxing the 14-day self-isolation requirement for travellers from eastern and southern Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada.
Health Minister Cameron Friesen said the province had almost 25,000 responses to an online survey asking for feedback on the proposals. Including feedback from the surveys and town halls, he said the province got more than 50,000 responses from Manitobans over two days.
"From all that we collected and gleaned from Manitobans … the number one area in which they expressed concerns was the reopening, the lifting of restrictions for travel from outside Manitoba," Friesen said at a news conference Thursday afternoon.
The self-isolation requirement was lifted last month for visitors from northwestern Ontario, provinces west of Manitoba and the territories.
The province also proposed increasing maximum sizes for public gatherings, but that is also on hold for now.
New rules for care-home visits start Saturday
Some other Phase 4 changes will come into effect this Saturday, Friesen said.
That includes allowing movie theatres to reopen and stage performances to resume. Theatres will be allowed up to 30 per cent of their normal capacity or 500 people, whichever is lower. The same limits will apply for faith-based gatherings as of Saturday.
Those size limits are scaled down from the draft plan, which proposed capping attendance at 50 per cent of venue capacity.
Casinos will also be allowed up to 30 per cent of normal capacity.
Proposed changes to visits at long-term and personal care homes will also move forward as of this weekend.
WATCH | Full news conference on COVID-19 | July 23, 2020:
Each resident or designate at personal care and long-term care facilities will be able to identify two support people who can visit with residents in their own rooms.
However, maximum gathering sizes will remain at the Phase 3 limits, which are generally 50 people indoors and 100 outdoors.
A proposed change to allow walk-up counter service in bars, beverage rooms, brew pubs, microbreweries and distilleries will also be delayed.
Although the province has backed off some of its immediate plans to loosen restrictions, Manitoba's chief public health officer said people will need to learn to live with the virus while maintaining practices like handwashing, mask wearing and physical distancing to protect vulnerable people and reduce strain on the health-care system.
"We can't have severe restrictions in place forever," Dr. Brent Roussin said at Thursday's news conference.
Rising case numbers
The proposed changes in the draft plan were drawn up weeks ago, when Manitoba's case numbers were exceptionally low, including a nearly two-week stretch with no new cases, said Friesen.
That changed on July 14, when five new cases were announced. Another 45 have been announced since then.
"What really surprised a lot of people was the sudden re-emergence of cases in Manitoba. Clearly where we are today is so different from where we were just two weeks ago," Friesen said Thursday.
Roussin also announced at the news conference that one new case of COVID-19 has been identified in the province.
The new case is a man in his 40s from the Interlake-Eastern Health region.
The current five-day test positivity rate — a rolling average of the percentage of completed tests that came back as positive — is 0.91 per cent.
The province also revised its five-day test positivity rate from the last three days, following updated data analysis.
The revised positivity rates are:
- July 20: 0.66 per cent (reduced from 0.83 per cent).
- July 21: 0.8 per cent (reduced from 1.03 per cent).
- July 22: 0.85 per cent (reduced from 1.12 per cent).
One person is currently in intensive care with COVID-19.
Thursday's new case brings the province's total since the start of the pandemic to 375, with 49 cases now active, 319 recoveries and seven COVID-19-related deaths.
The province completed 1,262 more COVID-19 lab tests on Wednesday, bringing the total number since early February to 79,546.
Over the last several days, the province has identified a number of infection clusters in Hutterite colonies around Manitoba. Going forward, Roussin said the province will only refer to clusters generically, without identifying details.
A minister for one of the colonies wrote a letter to Friesen and Premier Brian Pallister on Wednesday, saying members of the Hutterite communities face stigma due to the outbreaks and asking the province to only refer to geographic location, rather than specifying colonies, when identifying new cases.
"Things like stigma drive people away from testing, drive people away from co-operating with public health," Roussin said at the press conference. "Let's stick together."
- An earlier version of this story said that the province had more than 50,000 responses to its online survey. In fact, the province had more than 50,000 responses through a combination of the survey and town halls.Jul 23, 2020 5:32 PM CT
With files from Caitlyn Gowriluk