Manitoba premier shoots down COVID-19 curfew idea but beefs up enforcement of rules

Steve Lambert
·2 min read

WINNIPEG — Three days after he raised the idea, Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister quashed a proposed curfew as a way that could help slow the spread of COVID-19.

"The World Health Organization (and) many other medical experts have said there are real dangers in that approach," Pallister said Thursday.

"According to my discussions with … our health leaders as recently as this morning, they feel this would be premature, to invoke such restrictions at this time."

Pallister floated the idea of a curfew on Monday before his Progressive Conservative government put up an online survey to gather a response. The survey asked questions such as how early a curfew should start and how violators could be reported.

The curfew was part of Pallister's plan to cut down on late-night socializing. Health officials have said many COVID-19 cases in a surge that started in late summer can be traced to people gathering with family and friends in bars, restaurants and homes.

In recent weeks, the government has cut restaurant and bar capacity in most areas of the province and closed them in the greater Winnipeg region as of this week. It has also limited gatherings — five people plus members of a household. Winnipeg police said this week they will start responding to complaints about gatherings that exceed the limit in private homes.

Pallister drew a link between socializing and outbreaks that have occurred and grown in hospitals and long-term care homes.

"We believe, from the numbers, that a lot of the causative events are coming from large gatherings," he said.

Instead of a curfew, the province will run advertisements warning people about the dangers of social gatherings and beef up enforcement of public health orders.

One advertisement features a young man talking about going to a house party and not thinking about the consequences. Bubbles with pictures of people with whom he later comes in contact with are shown. The ad ends with a shot of the young man at his grandmother's funeral.

The province is also adding fire safety inspectors, motor carrier enforcement officers and municipal bylaw officers to the roughly 3,000 people already empowered to crack down on large gatherings and other rule-breakers.

Pallister said the government will provide financial assistance to municipalities to help pay for the enforcement.

The Opposition New Democrats said Pallister should be further increasing health-care spending instead of focusing on enforcement and penalties.

"Every time the premier comes out, he wants to talk tough … but he's not doing the No. 1 job," NDP Leader Wab Kinew said.

Pallister has promised to release a plan Friday to expand hospital capacity.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 5, 2020.

Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press