Manitoba

Restaurants, gyms, seniors centres can reopen Monday as Manitoba loosens restrictions further

Most businesses that were forced to shutter their doors due to COVID-19 will be allowed to start back up under the second phase of Manitoba's reopening plan, which includes gyms, indoor restaurant spaces and seniors centres.

Universities, bars, pools also allowed to resume some service

Gyms are among the many businesses that will be allowed to reopen as part of Phase 2 of the province's plan. (Jaison Empson/CBC)

Most businesses that were forced to shutter their doors due to COVID-19 will be allowed to start back up Monday under the second phase of Manitoba's reopening plan, which includes gyms, indoor restaurant spaces and seniors centres.

Manicurists and pedicurists, film production, pools and a wide swath of other businesses can all resume operating, Premier Brian Pallister said Wednesday.

The plan includes expanding capacity at child-care centres, and allowing restaurant dining rooms, bars, brew pubs and microbreweries to open at 50 per cent capacity, provided they can keep customers two metres apart.

Manitobans will also be allowed to travel north of the 53rd parallel from within Manitoba, though they are advised to stay home if they have any symptoms of COVID-19, which include many cold and flu symptoms. 

"It's truly a plan designed by and for Manitobans," Pallister said. 

Most businesses that were forced to shutter their doors due to COVID-19 will be allowed to start back up Monday under the second phase of Manitoba's reopening plan, which includes gyms, indoor restaurant spaces and seniors centres. 2:33

The province released its proposed plan for the second phase of reopening the Manitoba economy last week but did not set a date.

There were some changes in Wednesday's announcement, including allowing post-secondary institutions and vocational colleges to reopen in situations where hands-on experience is required. 

"Examples may include, but are not limited to, laboratories, studios, trades instructions and practicums," the province's website says. 

They will also be allowed to run senior undergraduate and graduate-level courses, while limiting the number of people in each to 25 and ensuring physical distancing is possible. 

WATCH | Premier Brian Pallister talks about the 'slow and steady' Phase 2 reopening:

Premier Brian Pallister says the slow and careful Phase 2 reopening is the result of the low incidence of COVID-19 in Manitoba and the province will look closely at any resurgence in cases. 1:15

Child-care centres will be able to allow up to 24 children per group, plus staffing. 

They will have to ensure each group has a separate entrance and exit or stagger drop-off schedules, and make sure children and their parents don't congregate in any larger common space.

Seniors centres to reopen

Seniors clubs and centres are also being allowed to reopen under a number of strict guidelines, including screening volunteers and participants for symptoms of COVID-19 or exposure to the coronavirus before entering the facility or allowing participation in activities.

These clubs and centres, which weren't included in the earlier Phase 2 draft plan, also will be required to limit the time of interactions and group activities, ensure proper handwashing, and prioritize outdoor activities over indoor activities. 

Pallister said while it's important for seniors to be able to interact for their well-being, he's also aware they need to be very careful, since they are most at risk of serious complications from COVID-19. That's why the province has put so many requirements in place for these centres. 

"I think they'll welcome the reopening," he said. 

The province also has lifted pandemic-related occupancy limits for regulated therapeutic and health-care professionals. They were previously limited to 50 per cent of their usual capacity.

Gyms and fitness studios can reopen if they implement measures to ensure physical distancing is possible for their members. These businesses were originally slated to be part of future phases of the province's reopening strategy, but industry members made a case to the province for reopening.

Province consulted with Manitobans

Though the second phase includes most businesses that were forced to close, movie theatres, bingo halls and casinos won't reopen before June 21.

Big events, such as professional sports and concerts, won't be considered until September. 

Children's and adults' sports, as well as cultural activities like music, theatre and dance schools, can resume, as long as physical distancing is maintained on benches, sidelines and in classrooms.

Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin said Wednesday the plan acknowledges it will be impossible to maintain physical distancing while playing sports.

He stressed the importance of other measures, like limiting crowd sizes and distancing between spectators. Players and participants must frequently sanitize their hands and, crucially, stay home if ill.

There won't be a "foreseeable future when we don't have to deal with this virus," Roussin said.

"We have to start returning to some sense of normalcy, and we think that the numbers that we see right now, and putting in all these guidelines, we can return to those sports in a safe manner."

Loosened restrictions on performing arts are focused on teaching and rehearsals, not performances, he added.

"We wanted to make sure that the people involved in learning and performing and practising these events, just like sports, had that opportunity going forward with restrictions," he said.

"Indoor performances are not going to be really in Phase 2," he said. "We're not really going to be seeing those large performances, certainly not in this phase."

Watch: Brian Pallister on COVID-19 test numbers in Manitoba

Premier Brian Pallister says the province will be watching the percentage of positive tests as Manitoba continues to life restrictions. 2:03

The premier said Wednesday dozens of things were changed in the plan after consultation with Manitoba businesses and residents.

He commended Manitobans for listening to public health orders, and said they could take pride in the fact that the province is able to reopen. 

"You listened and you acted," he said. 

However, there's no room for complacency, he said — the province doesn't want a "COVID comeback."

'We're going to see more cases': Roussin

There have been 292 cases of COVID-19 in Manitoba, with no new cases over the last five days. The coronavirus has been linked to seven deaths in the province.

On Wednesday, Roussin called the Phase 2 plan "a broad reopening, but with restrictions."

"We're going need to learn to live with this virus," he said.

As restrictions lift, he urged Manitobans to stay home when ill, continue following public health advice on hygiene and distancing and seek testing for any symptoms, no matter how mild.

Neither Pallister nor Roussin said Wednesday which businesses would have to close first if the province were to see a resurgence of COVID-19.

Roussin said he's watching trends in a number of key metrics, including the percentage of completed tests that come back positive and the number of cases where public health investigators can't figure out how the patient got sick.

"We're going to see more cases. And so the things that we're following — like our positive test rate, things like the number of cases that can't be linked to a case or to travel — those are the real important things that we're going to measure," Roussin said.

"We're not going to be thrown off our progress by seeing cases here and there."

Pallister said reopening plans must strike a balance.

"There's a danger in not proceeding in the way we're proceeding, too, in that everyone is forced to be isolated, not active, forced to experience, to a greater degree, some of the mental health stresses that go with that isolation," Pallister said. 

"There's pressure on both sides. We're trying to strike the right balance."

WATCH | Announcement on COVID-19 measures in the province | May 27, 2020:

Premier Brian Pallister on COVID-19 measures in the province | May 27, 2020: 42:07

With files from Aidan Geary

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