New wide-sweeping public health orders are coming into play at 12:01 a.m. Sunday in response to an ongoing spike in COVID-19 cases.
The orders affect gatherings and strive to cut down on the number of contacts Manitobans make with people from outside their household.
So described chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin during a Friday afternoon media conference, adding the new rules aren’t a cure-all.
"These public health orders can’t be written to guide every aspect of our lives," he said. "We know that we all need to make personal choices to reduce the number of contacts outside of our households."
The new restrictions will last for a minimum of three weeks, and include:
• Limiting outdoor gatherings that include people from multiple households to a maximum of five
• Restaurants, bars and patios will close to in-person dining, but can still provide takeout and delivery services
• Gyms and fitness centres will close
• Casinos remain closed and VLTs will close
• Museums, galleries and libraries will close
• Indoor community, cultural and religious gatherings are prohibited
• Indoor sports and recreation, including after-school activities, will close
• Outdoor sports and recreation activities are limited to five participants, and organized team games are not permitted
• Dance, theatre and music schools will close alongside day camps
• Retail stores, markets and garden centres will be able to open at 10 per cent capacity to a maximum of 100 people. Malls can open at 10 per cent capacity
• Self-help gatherings will have a maximum of 10 participants
The rising number of people in intensive care units (56 as of Friday, including five in Prairie Mountain Health) has joined the province’s rising active caseload in creating an environment that necessitated these restrictions, Roussin said.
"We need to bring down these numbers," he said. "We need to make sure the health-care system is for everyone, and the surest way to do that is to dramatically decrease the number of contacts we have from outside our household."
The restrictions are broad in scope because of widespread community transmission, he added.
"We need to be able to limit where people are able to gather right now."
No announcement was made Friday regarding schools, though Roussin clarified the province is "going to be able to provide more information on that in the very near future."
With many of the new restrictions directly affecting businesses, Brandon Chamber of Commerce vice-president Barry Cooper said it signals yet another hit to the local economy.
"It’s amazing how resilient a lot of people are, but that said, there’s a limit," he said, adding that while he understands the tough position the province finds itself in, the day’s news was nonetheless disappointing to the business community.
"The unfortunate part is, once again, businesses work very hard to try and protect their staff and their customers, and they really go above and beyond the health-care directive," he said. "They’re taking a hit for the greater good."
Although Friday’s news didn’t come as a surprise given how deep the province appears to be in the pandemic’s third wave, Mayor Rick Chrest said it was still unfortunate to hear.
"I’m really concerned for many of our business sectors," he said. "It’s going to be quite troubling for many, and it concerns me a lot."
The "yo-yo effect" that accompanies the continued easing and tightening of restrictions is "disheartening," he said — particularly at more than a year into the pandemic.
However, unlike previous times of increased restrictions, this one comes with a light at the end of the tunnel by way of vaccinations.
Chrest received his vaccine at the Keystone Centre supersite on April 29, and said everything went smoothly and that he was in and out within 30 minutes.
"There’s no question that everyone is exhausted," he said. "I really feel that the finish line is in sight, and I would really encourage people to just hang in there a little longer."
In addition to shopping local, Cooper said the best thing people can do right now is get vaccinated.
At 398 active cases in Prairie Mountain Health, the Westman-wide health region reached a new record in the pandemic on Friday. The previous record was set on Dec. 5, when 349 active cases were recorded.
Provincially, there were 2,989 active cases on Friday. See Page A4 for a more thorough rundown of the day’s numbers.
During a media conference earlier in the day Friday, deputy chief provincial public health officer Dr. Jazz Atwal called these numbers "alarming."
Also appearing during a media conference earlier in the day, Premier Brian Pallister helped prime Manitobans for the tightened restrictions to come.
"I say, and I hope not out an excessive abundance of optimism, I have faith in Manitobans that we can do this together and this is a few weeks’ hardship we have to endure together to get through to the light at the end, which is a partial recovery of our lives as we remember them prior to this COVID pandemic," he said.
As for those who choose not to follow health restrictions, Pallister said, "They are not only putting their own health at risk, they’re putting the health of their family at risk.
"Bring your mother flowers on Mother’s Day, don’t give her COVID."
» firstname.lastname@example.org, with files by Kimberley Kielley and Drew May
» Twitter: @TylerClarkeMB