Province seeking public feedback on proposed changes to public health orders next week

Manitoba is considering significant changes to pandemic-related public health orders beginning March 5, when the current set of public health orders expires.

All of the changes may be brought in at once or they may be divided over two phases in a six-week period, Manitoba’s chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin said at a Feb. 25 news conference.

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Among the changes proposed are allowing all businesses except for movie theatres, concert halls, casinos and bingo halls to operate and to increase the capacity for businesses and restaurants to 50 per cent or 250 people, whichever is lower, though restaurants would still be expected to ensure that only members of the same household sit at the same table. The province is also considering allowing households to designate either two people or one other household as being allowed to visit them and allowing group instruction at gyms, arenas, fitness centres, dance studios and music and theatre facilities up to a maximum of 25 per cent capacity. People at gyms, fitness centres and pools may also be allowed to not wear masks while participating in activities. Video lottery terminals could also reopen for use provided there is at least two metres or a non-permeable barrier between them. Places of worship could also have their capacity limit increased to 25 per cent or 100 participants for regular services, with masks and physical distancing still required.

The changes would likely be applied to the whole province to avoid people going from a region with stricter regulations to one with looser ones, said Roussin.

It’s to early to conclusively determine waht effect the loosening of restrictions on Feb. 12 had on case numbers, said Roussin, but there’s no evidence that it contributed to a noticeably higher number of infections.

“We certainly haven’t seen a significant spike in cases so I think that’s reassuring to us,” he said.

Most likely, the next set of public health orders will cover a three-week period from March 5 to March 26.

“If we start seeing outbreaks moving forward in any of the facilities that we open we’ll have to make changes and draw back the loosening,” Roussin said. ‘We know that if we just open things up right now to where we were in October there’s a significant risk that we start seeing November and December [infection] numbers.”

To provide feedback on the proposed changes before new update public health orders are announced next week, go to https://engagemb.ca/.

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