By Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG — People will face fewer restrictions on dining out, playing bingo, finding child care and returning from some other provinces starting Sunday under Manitoba’s latest plan to ease COVID-19 restrictions.
Restaurant and bars will no longer have to operate at half capacity, however tables will have to be two metres apart or have a physical barrier in between them. Non-smoking bingo halls and video lottery terminal lounges will be allowed to open for the first time in months, at 50 per cent capacity.
Child care centres and retail stores will be able to return to normal capacity, and people arriving in Manitoba from the other western provinces, northern territories and northwestern Ontario will no longer have to self-isolate for 14 days.
Those jurisdictions were chosen because their COVID-19 numbers are low, Premier Brian Pallister said Wednesday.
“We’re hopeful that this is a measure that we can relax a little bit and that will provide some real opportunities, in particular I think for small business … that have been restricted very much up until now,” Pallister said.
Larger public gatherings will also be allowed as of Sunday.
Instead of a cap of 25 people indoors and 50 people outdoors, people will be able to fill up to 30 per cent of the capacity of any venue as long as they can be split into groups of 50 indoors or 100 outdoors. Each group must be able to enter and exit separately.
The announcement came as provincial health officials released more data that showed Manitoba’s pandemic numbers remain low. Two new cases were announced Wednesday — a Winnipeg man in his 30s and a Winnipeg male between the ages of 10 and 19.
That brought the province’s total of confirmed and probable cases to 306. Only six cases remain active and none of them were in hospital.
Pallister is facing pressure to loosen restrictions even more. Several churches in southern Manitoba have launched a letter-writing campaign aimed at removing any limits on religious services.
“Active cases peaked months ago on April 4,” the letter states. “The infringement upon our constitutional freedoms is unjustified.”
When asked about the letter, Pallister would only say that everyone is expected to follow the rules.
“I would say that public health orders issued by our medical advisory team … will be followed and they’ll be followed in all cases.”