Manitoba reduces capacity limits for all public gatherings as Omicron cases skyrocket

·3 min read
Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson joined Dr. Brent Roussin to announce the updated public health orders on Monday. (John Woods/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson joined Dr. Brent Roussin to announce the updated public health orders on Monday. (John Woods/The Canadian Press - image credit)

Manitoba is reducing capacity limits for all indoor and outdoor public gatherings in response to skyrocketing COVID-19 cases linked to the highly contagious Omicron variant.

The updated restrictions mean gatherings must not exceed 50 per cent of the usual capacity of the space, or 250 people, whichever is less.

Previously, capacity restrictions were slightly more relaxed for people who are vaccinated and were capped at 50 per cent.

The updated orders come after Manitoba reported 2,154 new cases of COVID-19 since Christmas Eve, including 785 cases on Saturday, 694 cases on Sunday and 675 cases on Monday.

Manitoba's Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin says at least three-quarters of all cases in the province are linked to an extremely contagious coronavirus variant.

"We know we can't rely on some of the reports of Omicron being less severe, with the amount of transmission we're seeing, we're going to see that demand translating into increased demand on the health-care system," Roussin said.

"We need to protect the health-care system for everyone who needs it. All Manitobans need it, which means we need to decrease the amount of transmission we're seeing with Omicron."

The restrictions affect all indoor and outdoor gatherings, including religious gatherings, cultural events, theatres, restaurants, museums and art galleries, sporting and recreational facilities, gyms and indoor and outdoor ticketed sporting events.

The increased limits are meant to ensure all patrons are properly distanced, Roussin said.

The province is also limiting liquor sales in restaurants and licensed premises to end at 10 p.m.

The changes will come into effect on Tuesday at 12:01 a.m. and will expire on Jan. 11, 2022.

All other public health orders are staying the same at this point.

More to come

Read the previous story below:

Manitoba's premier and chief public health officer will provide an update on the pandemic Monday as COVID-19 cases driven by the highly contagious Omicron variant skyrocket across the country.

CBC News will stream the 2 p.m. news conference live here, as well as on Facebook and CBC Gem.

Monday's update follows an impromptu news conference on Christmas Eve, when Dr. Brent Roussin urged people to cancel holiday plans and warned that Manitobans could face more restrictions "in the coming days."

"We're looking at this by the hour," Roussin said that day. "Manitobans need to prepare that next week, we probably won't have large gatherings."

Just before Christmas, the province imposed new pandemic rules, which brought capacity limits across Manitoba.

Jung Yeon-Je/AFP/Getty Images
Jung Yeon-Je/AFP/Getty Images

Figures could underrepresent true COVID numbers

Manitoba reported 2,154 new cases of COVID-19 since Christmas Eve, including 785 cases on Saturday, 694 cases on Sunday and 675 cases on Monday.

Christmas Day's case numbers marked the highest single-day increase the province has seen over the course of the pandemic to date.

Roussin has previously said these figures could be underrepresenting the true number of Manitoba's COVID-19 infections in light of long lines at test sites and extended waits for results.

The delays may have discouraged some people from going to get tested at all.

Manitoba's five-day test positivity rate is 19 per cent as of Monday, up from 12.6 on Friday. In Winnipeg, that rate is 21.2 per cent, up from 14.7 per cent three days ago.

Monday's news conference will be the first time Premier Heather Stefanson has addressed the public in days. She was not present at either of the two previous news conferences.

Health Minister Audrey Gordon stood by the premier in spite of her absence.

"I have the full confidence of the premier, as does Dr. Reimer and Dr. Roussin, to communicate to Manitobans how urgent it is that they follow the public health orders," Gordon said on Friday.

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