No more visitors in Manitoba homes as some COVID-19 rules tightened

·3 min read

WINNIPEG — Most Manitobans will not be allowed to have social visits at their homes for the next four weeks — indoors or out — under heightened COVID-19 restrictions announced by the provincial government Monday.

Starting Wednesday, the province will do away with a provision that permitted a two-household bubble. There will be no allowance for visitors except for people who live alone, who will be able to have one guest.

The province is also tightening restrictions on churches, businesses and gyms as part of an effort to reverse rising COVID-19 numbers.

"We really have limited choice at this point. We have that risk of overwhelming our health-care system," said Dr. Brent Roussin, chief public health officer.

The province had seen daily case counts in the double digits from February until a few weeks ago when a sharp rise started.

Health officials reported 210 new COVID-19 cases Monday and one death. There were 148 infected people in hospital, with 37 in intensive care.

The percentage of people testing positive, averaged over five days, has risen as well. It stood Monday at 7.6 per cent provincially and 8.2 per cent in Winnipeg.

Other new rules taking effect Wednesday include a 10-person attendance cap at religious services. It was previously set at 25 per cent to a maximum of 100 people.

Food courts in shopping malls will have to close, and retail store capacity will be reduced to 25 per cent from 33 per cent.

Gyms will continue to face a 25 per cent capacity limit, but will now have to ensure patrons are spaced at least three metres apart instead of two metres.

Kids in dance, music and theatre schools, as well as those in outdoor sports, will be limited to having one parent or guardian as a spectator.

Premier Brian Pallister said the changes are targeted at areas where there is close, prolonged contact. He said enforcement of the public-health orders will be stepped up, but did not reveal details.

"We need to target it to those areas where we know there are higher incidences of COVID outbreaks," Pallister said.

The third wave of the pandemic has hit Manitoba a little later than its neighbouring provinces — just as Manitoba has managed to vaccinate one-third of adults with at least one dose.

The province also expanded its COVID-19 vaccination priority Monday to include all adults who live or work in the northern health region. Adults who live in the Seven Oaks West neighbourhood in Winnipeg can also now get a shot, as can people who work there in certain public jobs, including teachers, grocery store workers and child-care staff.

The province announced similar measures last week for three neighbourhoods in central Winnipeg, based largely on rising case counts. Elsewhere in the province, the minimum age for vaccinations remains at 30 and up for First Nations people, and 40 and up for others.

The province is looking at getting vaccination clinics into workplaces to combat signs of increasing transmission on the job.

"One of the things that we're doing is working with some of the larger workplaces … to see whether or not we can include them in our distributed model, much like we do clinics and pharmacies," said Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of the province's vaccination effort.

"So, setting up a system potentially — when we have a vaccine that is fridge-stable — being able to send it to some of the larger workplaces to do on-site immunization."

The Opposition New Democrats urged the province to speed up vaccination.

"This government needs to make sure that ... every single Manitoban accessing a vaccine can do so without barrier. They can do so with ease," NDP health critic Uzoma Asagwara said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 26, 2021.

Steve Lambert and Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press