Province bans gatherings at home, makes other public health order changes as COVID cases rise

Manitoba’s government made some adjustments April 26 to public health orders instituted last week in response to rising COVID-19 case numbers, test positivity and hospitalizations.

Effective April 28 at 12:01 a.m. for four weeks until May 26, the orders forbid indoor or outdoor gatherings at private residences, gatherings of more than 10 people in outdoor public places and cap attendance at religious services at a maximum of 10 people or 25 per cent of a building’s capacity, whichever is lower. Masks must be worn at all time during religious services.

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Gyms and fitness centres must ensure three metres of distance between patrons, food courts in malls must close down and patio dining at restaurants is limited to groups of four people or less. Day camps can have a maximum of 10 children, whether indoors or outdoors, and retail stores are limited to 25 per cent capacity or 250 people, whichever is lower.

“Right now we’re essentially where we were at the end of October,” said chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin at a press conference on Monday. “We’re in a very precarious place right now.”

The average age of patients in intensive care is going down and the number of cases is rapidly advancing among people in their 20s and 30s, Roussin said.

There were 210 new cases of the virus announced in the province on Monday, including 157 in Winnipeg, 19 in the Prairie Mountain health region, 15 in the north, 12 in the Interlake-Eastern health region and seven in the southern health region. One additional death was announced, the 968th Manitoban to die from COVID-19, and the five-day test positivity rate was 7.6 per cent.

There were 148 Manitobans in the hospital, including 83 with active infections. Thirty-seven people were in intensive care, 21 of them with active infections. These hospitalization numbers include 17 northerners, nine of whom have active infections. There are six northern residents in intensive care, including four with active infections.

If the orders are followed and Manitoba meets its goal of administering 300,000 vaccine doses over the next four weeks, these could be the last set of strict public health orders, Roussin said.

Acknowledging that Manitobans are getting sick of public health restrictions, Premier Brian Pallister said previous generations of Manitobans made far greater sacrifices than current residents are being asked to.

“These are small sacrifices to make to protect the well-being of your family and friends,” said the premier.

The new northern cases included five in the Island Lake health district and three in the Gillam/Fox Lake health district. On Sunday, the province announced that Chemawawin Cree Nation had banned public gatherings and asked residents to stay home unless they are essential workers, seeking medical care or testing or shopping for essential supplies. Non-medical masks must be worn outside the home.

The number of COVID-19 cases involving variants in the north is 34 as of April 24. Thirty of these are the B.1.1.7 or United Kingdom variant and four are uncategorized.

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