Manitoba rules target gatherings involving unvaccinated people, stores in area with worst immunization rate

Manitoba is bringing in new rules for unvaccinated people starting Tuesday as it works to prevent its health-care system from once more being overwhelmed by an increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations — a surge largely driven by people who aren’t fully immunized.

Maximum outdoor gathering size will drop to 50, but new rules will not otherwise apply to the fully vaccinated

A closeup of a male medical professional in a white coat and blue medical mask injecting a COVID-19 vaccine in a person's upper left arm.
A health-care worker administers a COVID-19 vaccine. Most of Manitoba's latest public health rules are aimed at those who are eligible to get immunized but haven't yet gotten their shots. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

Manitoba is bringing in new rules for unvaccinated people starting Tuesday as it works to prevent its health-care system from once more being overwhelmed by an increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations — a surge largely driven by people who aren't fully immunized.

Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin and Health Minister Audrey Gordon gave the update at a news conference Friday, where they outlined many restrictions focused on situations where there are people present who are eligible to be vaccinated but have not been.

That includes private indoor gatherings, which will be restricted to two households if any person at the gathering has chosen not to get vaccinated.

Only 10 people will be allowed to gather outdoors on private property if someone is attending who's eligible for vaccination but hasn't gotten their shots. In indoor public spaces, only 25 people or 25 per cent capacity, whichever is lower, will be allowed in such a situation.

For indoor faith-based gatherings that don't require proof of vaccination, capacity will be reduced to 25 people or 33 per cent capacity, whichever is greater. Fully immunized people and those under 12, who aren't yet eligible for vaccination, will be allowed to gather in these settings without capacity limits.

The reduced capacity rules will also apply to weddings and funerals where unvaccinated people are present, though the new rules for those types of events will only start Oct. 12 to give them time to come into compliance, Roussin said.

While Manitoba hasn't seen the same alarming spike in cases and hospitalizations as Saskatchewan or Alberta, the province started to see signs of its fourth wave in mid-August, as its seven-day average daily case count inched upward. Over the past week, that number rose from roughly 60 to 94.

And keeping in mind lessons learned during Manitoba's deadly second and third waves, the province isn't going to wait for things to get worse before taking action, Shared Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Perry Gray said alongside Roussin at a media briefing earlier Friday.

"This is our time to reverse the trend. This is our opportunity," Gray said.

In recent weeks, Manitoba has already started to see an uptick in COVID-19 patients being admitted to intensive care units.

That includes 17 in the week of Sept. 19 alone, Gray said, a far cry from the 11 seen in the entire month of August — and the province appears to be "on the brink of another rise in ICU admissions," he said.

Also included in Manitoba's latest pandemic rules is a drop in the number of people allowed in businesses in the Southern Health region. Starting Tuesday, store capacity will sink to 50 per cent in that area, where cases are increasing disproportionately — particularly among those who haven't been immunized.

Manitoba rules target unvaccinated people, areas with worst immunization rate

2 years ago
Duration 2:24
Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba's chief public health officer, says action was needed in part to stop the spread of COVID-19 in Manitoba's Southern Health region, where cases could double in a few weeks if there's no intervention.

Roughly half of Manitoba's recent COVID-19 ICU admissions have also been from the Southern Health region, which only has about 15 per cent of the province's population.

If the current trajectory continues, it could take less than three weeks for cases to double in that part of the province, which has the lowest vaccination rate of Manitoba's five health regions, Roussin said.

"That alone could place the province's hospital system at risk," he said.

Among Manitoba's health regions, the Winnipeg area has the highest vaccine uptake rate at 87.6 per cent as of Friday. The three next highest all hover around 80 per cent, while the rate in the Southern Health region lags far behind the rest at 65.9 per cent.

Gordon thanked Manitobans who have already gotten vaccinated and urged anyone eligible but still unvaccinated to get the shot.

"To keep our children in schools, to not postpone medical procedures, to keep our friends, families and neighbours safe, please — I'm begging you to get vaccinated," she said.

Health Minister Audrey Gordon asked eligible Manitobans to roll up their sleeves as a way to help keep schools open and avoid overwhelming the health-care system. (Randall McKenzie/CBC)

The one new rule that will be applied across the province, regardless of immunization status, is that outdoor public gatherings will be reduced to a maximum of 50 people.

While more rules could be brought in even for the vaccinated if the health-care system becomes overwhelmed, Roussin said for now Manitoba's public health orders amount to "a very significant lockdown on the unvaccinated."

"If you are waiting until the proof of vaccine requirement ends, you will be waiting for a long time," he said.

The update marks a shift for Manitoba to the restricted orange level of its pandemic response system. The one exception is schools, which will remain open at the caution yellow level — though individual sites can still be moved to remote learning as needed, Roussin said.

Health-care capacity

During Manitoba's previous waves, Gray said, the province learned its health-care system could tolerate about one new COVID-19 intensive care admission every day.

But two a day — which Manitoba is already seeing — will start to affect non-COVID-19 services. And once that number gets to three or more, it could trigger talks of once again transferring patients out of province, he said.

"It's not going to take much to significantly impact our capacity and our ability to provide non-COVID care. So we need these immediate interventions," Gray said.

Roussin said it has also become more difficult for public health officials to use case counts to predict ICU numbers as they've done in previous waves, in part due to the rise of the more contagious delta variant.

But it's also partly because more people now refuse to get tested for COVID-19 when they have symptoms.

During one spot check of ICU patients with COVID-19, about two-thirds hadn't been tested until they were hospitalized.

That makes it difficult to plan, Roussin said, and "also tells us that there's probably many, many more people who have avoided being tested who just haven't yet presented for care."

Shared Health Chief Nursing Officer Lanette Siragusa said the health-care system is introducing new protocols to protect intensive care capacity during the fourth wave.

Patients admitted to hospital, including in Winnipeg, will now be assessed for individual care requirements and may be transferred to facilities outside their home community as a way to maintain ICU capacity where it's most needed.

Those transfers will happen at no expense to the patient, Siragusa said at the technical briefing.

If the situation worsens, health-care staff may also be redeployed and services may be decreased, though the latter would only be done as a last resort, she said.

WATCH | Full news conference on COVID-19 | Oct. 1, 2021:

Manitoba government daily briefing on coronavirus: October 1

2 years ago
Duration 45:55
Provincial officials give update on COVID-19 outbreak: Friday, Oct. 1, 2021. Rules target gatherings involving unvaccinated people, stores in area with worst immunization rate.


  • A previous version of this story said fully vaccinated people and those under 12 will be able to gather in faith-based settings under certain restrictions when the new rules come into effect. In fact, those groups will be able to gather without capacity limits.
    Oct 01, 2021 2:13 PM CT


Caitlyn Gowriluk has been writing for CBC Manitoba since 2019. Her work has also appeared in the Winnipeg Free Press, and in 2021 she was part of an award-winning team recognized by the Radio Television Digital News Association for its breaking news coverage of COVID-19 vaccines. Get in touch with her at