Restaurants, bars, community centres can reopen in Manitoba next week

WINNIPEG — Bars, dine-in restaurants, gyms, pools and other facilities across Manitoba will be allowed to reopen starting Monday as the province eases more restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Community centres, seniors clubs and tattoo parlours are also getting the go-ahead. In all cases, there will be limits on customer capacity and rules for physical distancing.

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"While we can take pride in the progress we've made ... I emphasize we must remain vigilant," Premier Brian Pallister said Wednesday.

"We do not want a COVID comeback in this province."

Manitoba has had 292 cases since the pandemic began and seven deaths. There have only been three new instances in the last two weeks and the number of active cases has dropped to 14.

In its first reopening phase on May 4, the Progressive Conservative government allowed many services, including non-essential retail stores, restaurant patios and museums, to resume.

The second phase announced Wednesday is much broader. Restaurants and bars will be allowed to serve people indoors, but only at half capacity. Common areas such as dance floors and dart boards will remain off-limits.

Elementary and high schools stopped in-class instruction in March and will not reopen this school year. But they will be allowed as of Monday to offer tutoring or student assessments in small groups. Some extracurricular sports and other activities can restart.

At universities and colleges, some specific instruction such as labs and arts studios will be able to resume for up to 25 students and staff at a time.

Amateur sports and recreation programs, as well as bowling alleys, are on the list to resume operations.

"We're not going to see in the foreseeable future (a time) when we don't have to deal with this virus," said Dr. Brent Roussin, the province's chief public health officer.

"So we need to find ways that we can live with this virus, so we have to start returning to some sense of normalcy."

A ban on non-essential travel to the province's north is also being eased as of Monday. Southern residents will be allowed to travel directly to cottages, campgrounds and parks, but are being told to avoid visiting northern communities. The region has largely been spared from the pandemic and health officials are worried hospitals could be overwhelmed if that changes.

The Manitoba Chambers of Commerce welcomed the chance for its members to open their doors again.

"It's time for some businesses that have been not able to operate to start putting some people back to work," said president Chuck Davidson.

Some activities will still be forbidden after Monday. Movie theatres and casinos must remain closed. Concerts, professional sporting events and other large public gatherings won't be considered until at least September, the government said.

A limit on public gatherings remains at 25 people for indoor events and 50 in the outdoors.

Roussin and Pallister both said restrictions could be reimposed if the province's COVID-19 numbers rise. They urged Manitobans to practise physical distancing and avoid going out when ill.

"I want to maintain the discipline that has got us the progress that we've experienced to date," Pallister said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 27, 2020

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