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Manitoba stays in code red but outdoor gathering sizes increase to 25 on Friday

Posted in Canada, Featured

Published on March 23, 2021 with No Comments

Feedback, variants and stability in the health-care system cited as reasons to stay vigilant.

Manitoba won’t be moving down into orange-level pandemic restrictions after spending more than four months in the red zone, Premier Brian Pallister and Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin announced Tuesday.

The decision to keep the province at the highest level of restrictions on the pandemic response system came because of feedback from Manitobans, concerns over rising numbers of more transmissible coronavirus variants, and the need to maintain stability in the health-care system, the province said in a news release.

Some changes will take effect at 12:01 a.m. Friday, including increased limits on outdoor gatherings in public places, weddings and funerals from 10 to 25 people, and increased maximum capacity for retail stores from 250 to 500 people, although stores still may not exceed 50 per cent capacity.

People will also be allowed to leave their vehicles while attending drive-in events, as long as they follow all other public health rules.

“We still need to be cautious with our approach,” Roussin said.

“We see recent slow increase in the case numbers. We see an increasing proportion of our cases related to variants of concern.”

Indoor and outdoor gathering limits at private residences remain unchanged. 

“We know that prolonged contact had been a significant factor in the beginning of our second wave,” Roussin said. 

More changes could be considered after spring break, Passover and Easter. The new health orders are to expire on April 15.

The province posted  an online survey last week to gauge the public’s level of comfort with proposed changes and to get feedback.

Roughly half of respondents (53 per cent) supported increasing limits for outdoor public gatherings to 25, 48 per cent supported the same increase for weddings and funerals, 45 per cent supported increasing in-store capacity to 500, and 39 per cent said bigger changes should wait until after the spring holidays, the province said.

Pallister announced last week that Manitoba could potentially leave the critical code red level of its pandemic response system and move into the orange, reopening more services and activities.

Other changes contemplated at the time but not implemented this week include expanded indoor restaurant dining criteria, permitting organized team games at indoor sporting facilities, and allowing indoor theatres, concert halls, casinos and gaming centres to open at limited capacity.

The province also floated the idea of removing the requirement to self-isolate for 14 days for interprovincial travellers who travel for business reasons and do not have symptoms.

Pallister and Roussin delivered the news that Manitoba will stay in code red the day after Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, announced they will not be moving to the third step in their reopening plan because of rising hospitalizations in that province.

Hospitalizations in Manitoba hit a low of 133 on March 20 after going over 400 in December, but have edged upward since then, to 138 on Monday.

Case numbers in Manitoba have also started to trend upward again, with a seven-day average over 90 on Monday, after spending almost a week under 60 at the beginning of the month.


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