In the wake of Premier Brian Pallister’s Thursday announcement that there would be further restrictions on gatherings and retail businesses, the people of Brandon responded with a mix of hope, worry and understanding.
On social media, the reaction was largely negative, with some expressing concern over government overreach and others wondering why the actions of some rulebreakers were being met with the punishment of all Manitobans.
"I’m shocked at how idiotic this has become," columnist Kerry Auriat posted in the comments of the Sun’s Facebook page. "Let’s punish every single person rather than simply identify those who are acting irresponsibly and fine them. I’m very disappointed in this lack of leadership."
"Maybe this will help Brandon stay good and give a bit of hope for Christmas," another commenter said.
Brandon Mayor Rick Chrest said he wasn’t surprised the new restrictions were put in place given that Manitoba’s number of new daily COVID-19 cases continues to be high despite the whole province going under level red restrictions.
"Hopefully if we all get on board, these restrictions will be short-lived," Chrest said. "Lots of businesses have had to close altogether and in deference to those, those that are remaining open need to reduce their capacities and really just provide for people only consuming the essential products right now."
He said that if people continue to not follow the rules, then the restrictions will be in place even longer and will cause greater damage in the long run for businesses and employees alike.
"I would encourage Brandonites to take an extra few minutes and to try and determine which local stores have products available online or over the phone," he said. "Many businesses in the first shutdown in the spring have now created for themselves online portals and so on and so forth. If you’re looking for Christmas gifts and you would routinely buy them from local stores, then reach out and see if that store is taking phone orders or have online portals."
On the subject of further restrictions on household gatherings, Chrest acknowledged that some people might find them difficult but said they were necessary for getting things under control so the province has a chance at having a more normal Christmas.
Brandon Chamber of Commerce president Spencer Day also told the Sun he believed the new rules were necessary for getting the situation under control.
"Putting restrictions on the non-essential items is really the fastest path forward for getting our small businesses reopened," he said. "That’s the message we’ve had for the past week: if we’ve got to close our small businesses, we’ve got to have a level playing field right across the board for our large retailers."
He said many local businesses have already created online and remote sales options during the pandemic and expressed optimism that alternative sale options would keep them afloat during the current shutdown.
"Every business I can think of has either implemented a website or Facebook or anything where you can buy online and they’re offering free deliveries in many cases," he said.
At Extreme Electronics, owner Brian Johnson said he understands the necessity and importance of the new rules but the items he’s not allowed to sell under the new rules make up the bulk of his business.
"It’s an awful time of the year, I can tell you that," he said. "With Black Friday coming up and Christmas around the corner, that makes it very difficult. We’re already running into situations where we can’t get stock because of COVID."
» Twitter: @ColinSlark