Manitobans can now choose to designate one other household to form a pandemic bubble and all businesses — except indoor theatres, concert halls, casinos and bingo halls — can reopen when new public health orders come into effect Friday.
Indoor recreation facilities such as gyms, pools and fitness centres can operate at 25 per cent capacity with physical distancing measures in place for spectators, locker rooms and common areas.
The province had considered eliminating rules requiring masks for people in recreation facilities while exercising, but decided to keep it in place for this round of the health orders, Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin said.
The new orders, which Roussin unveiled during a news conference on Tuesday, will remain in effect until March 25. To read a breakdown of the new rules on the Manitoba government website, click here.
"We shouldn't interpret these reopenings as a reduction in our risk," Roussin said, stressing the need to keep case numbers down, as more easily transmissible variants of the virus poses a threat to the health system.
Under the rules for household bubbles, all members of both households must agree to only visit each other.
Manitobans can either choose the household bubble option, or can instead continue to designate up to two people to come to their home.
Among the other changes, the limit on outdoor gathering sizes has doubled to 10 people.
Restaurants can operate at 50 per cent capacity, but the rule limiting seating to household members only remains in place.
If restaurants were allowed to seat more than one household together, there would be no way for them to avoid seating multiple households together, Roussin said.
"We know that Manitobans want to get out with other people at these restaurants. We just can't have people from different households, multiple households sitting at the same table for prolonged periods of time."
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Other businesses can also operate at 50 per cent capacity, up to a maximum of 250 people.
Places of worship can reopen at 25 per cent capacity, up to a maximum of 100 people.
Arcades, go-kart tracks, day camps for children and children's facilities can also open at 25 per cent capacity. Dance, theatre and music facilities can open for individual instruction and group classes at 25 a maximum per cent capacity.
Professional theatre, dance, symphony and opera companies can resume rehearsals, as long as they are not open to the public.
The changes come after the Manitoba government announced last week that it was considering a broad swath of relaxed COVID-19 rules.
Members of the public were invited to offer their feedback on the proposed changes.
Officials began loosening some restrictions to allow for a "slow reopening" of some businesses on Jan. 23 after Manitobans spent months in near lockdown. At first, the changes applied to all areas but the north. On Feb. 12, restrictions were relaxed further, this time with northern Manitoba included.
Despite those relaxed rules, daily COVID-19 case counts have continued to fall across the province. On Monday, Manitoba posted its lowest daily case count since Oct. 7.
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