Numbers rising: Renewed COVID-19 restrictions in Manitoba target unvaccinated

·3 min read

WINNIPEG — The Manitoba government is tightening COVID-19 public health orders, especially for people who are not fully vaccinated.

Starting Tuesday, a cap of 25 people will be placed on indoor public events that include unvaccinated guests, although there will be a one-week grace period for weddings and funerals.

Those who allow unvaccinated people on their property can only have 10 guests outdoors, while indoor home gatherings with unvaccinated attendees will be restricted to hosting one other household.

Indoor religious services, already capped at 50 per cent capacity, will be limited to 33 per cent if they allow unvaccinated people to attend.

"This is a very significant lockdown on the unvaccinated," Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba's chief public health officer, said Friday.

In the southern health region, where vaccination rates are low, retail businesses will be limited to half capacity.

Across the province, outdoor public gatherings will be capped at 50 people, down from 500. There are exceptions for major sporting events and festivals.

The province already requires people to show proof of vaccination to attend a range of venues, including football stadiums, concert halls, museums and restaurants.

Roussin said the new rules will mean very little change for the 80 per cent of eligible Manitobans who have received both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, but will help slow the spread of the virus.

Manitoba recently entered the fourth wave of the pandemic and case numbers have started spiking in the southern health region, where the vaccination rate is lowest.

The region is home to 15 per cent of the province's population, but its residents make up half of all active COVID-19 cases in hospital and two-thirds of cases in intensive care.

"That region could be seeing 93 cases per day in under three weeks. That alone could place the province's hospital system at risk," Roussin said.

When asked how the province plans to enforce the new rules and check on who is attending house parties and Thanksgiving dinners, Health Minister Audrey Gordon said the government will work with municipalities.

She also said she hopes more people get their shots rather than risk facing fines.

"What I hope is that Manitobans will see the urgency of getting vaccinated and doing the right thing and they themselves will say … 'we are going to honour and adhere to those restrictions,'" she said.

Gordon also pointed to a provincial tip line that people can call to report rule-breakers.

The mayor of Winkler, a city where 41 per cent of eligible people have had at least one vaccine dose, said the new rules are divisive and will not be effective.

"It pits neighbour against neighbour … and people are becoming angry with their neighbours, which is totally unhealthy," Martin Harder said.

"Positive information from the right sources … dealing with the issue of the dangers of the virus, I think, would do an awful lot more than putting the punishment in."

The mayor of nearby Morden, where the vaccination rate is near 70 per cent, expressed a different take and called for tougher enforcement.

"If (the province is) going to put down public health orders, we need an army of enforcement," Brandon Burley said.

"(With) the flagrant disregard for public health and the narratives around public health, and abuse of public health officials, the province either needs to decide they're doing nothing or they need to decide they're doing something."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 1, 2021.

Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press

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