The Manitoba government announced late Friday afternoon that some changes to public health orders would be coming into effect at midnight Monday night in an attempt to slow the spread of the omicron COVID-19 variant.
Private gatherings will be limited to a household plus 10 people if everyone is vaccinated or a household plus five people if there are unvaccinated people present. Children under 12 years old are excluded from vaccination requirements.
Public indoor gatherings are limited to 25 per cent capacity of 25 people, whichever is lower, while outdoor gatherings are limited to 50 people or 50 per cent capacity.
Gyms, movie theatres, licensed premises, libraries and some other locations are limited to 50 per cent capacity, as are faith-based gatherings where proof of vaccination is required. If proof of vaccination isn’t required, the maximum number of participants at indoor faith-based gatherings is 25 or 25 per cent of capacity, whichever is lower.
Indoor and outdoor sports will also be limited to 50 per cent capacity for spectators.
The new rules will remain in effect until Jan. 11.
Manitoba chief public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin said that although there are only eight confirmed cases of the omicron variant in Manitoba, it won’t stay that way for long, based on what has happened in other places.
“We’ll see a rapid doubling,” he said. “It’s very likely in the coming days we’ll be able to clearly say we have community transmission. There’s no reason to think it would look any different here than anywhere else.”
Health Minister Audrey Gordon said that, in addition to abiding by public health orders, people should get third doses of COVID-19 vaccine as soon as they are eligible.
“Case counts and hospitalizations are rising and we must be proactive,” Gordon said. “We must ask Manitobans to do more to reduce the current COVID-19 case numbers and community transmission.”
NDP Opposition leader Wab Kinew said following public health orders and getting vaccinated are important but the timing of the announcement does not give the impression that the province is on top of the situation.
“An emergency Friday afternoon press conference does not inspire the confidence Manitobans need to believe their government is in control and has a plan – and the premier's absence is disappointing,” Kinew said in an emailed statement. “Several things were missing from this announcement, particularly a commitment to bring in the military to shore up our hospitals, ramp up the booster campaign, increase rapid tests to complement masking and other measures, and, of course properly enforcie these rules across the province. Now is the time to show leadership."