WINNIPEG — Manitoba health officials are extending the current public health orders throughout the holiday season to control the spread of COVID-19, while easing a small number of restrictions.
The current critical (red) restrictions took effect province-wide on November 12, while the province further restricted all gatherings outside of households and banned the sale of non-essential items on November 19.
The current critical restrictions were set to expire on Friday, but will be extended as of 12:01 a.m. this Saturday, December 12 until January 8, 2021.
Some changes are coming to the tweaked health orders, including allowing drive-in events, such as church worship services and Canad Inns Winter Wonderland at Red River Exhibition Park, for example. Attendees must be from the same household and remain in their vehicle at all times.
“This was one of the measures that we had been contemplating lifting as soon as somewhat reasonable,” Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief provincial public health officer, said Tuesday.
“We’re going to watch this very closely and if adherence isn’t very good … then we could change course on that.”
The move follows a failed attempt by a Winnipeg church to overturn the order. Springs Church, which had been fined more than $32,000 for parking-lot services, asked the Court of Queen’s Bench last weekend to suspend the ban but was rejected.
The province will also allow retailers to sell seasonal items in-store, such as holiday ornaments, gift wrap, Christmas trees, menorahs and candles. School supplies have also been added to the list of essential items that can be purchased.
Thrift stores are also being allowed to open with capacity limits and sell not just winter clothing or other items previously deemed as essential. The move comes to assist Manitoba’s lower-income population during the holiday season.
“Our modelling has shown the critical level, or red, restrictions have helped us avoid even higher case numbers right now,” Dr. Roussin added.
“But our numbers are still too high and now is not the time to let up. That is why we’re extending the public health orders with some adjustments to ensure Manitobans can access the goods and services they need, and have clear direction stay safe at home before and during the holiday season.”
Health officials also clarified that outdoor physical activities are still permitted under current health orders, despite recreational facilities and sports infrastructure being closed. The outdoor gathering limit remains at five people, with social distancing protocols encouraged for people not living in the same household. Dr. Roussin also clarified that having a backyard bonfire or gathering in someone’s garage isn’t permitted, as it’s still considered to be gathering at someone’s residence.
Another change coming on Saturday is the resuming of acupuncture services and manual osteopathy practices in the province, while private residences can be allowed to provide legal services, landlord access and access for home businesses.
The Winnipeg Jets will also be allowed to train in Manitoba in preparation for an eventual NHL decision on a 2021 playing season.
— With files from The Canadian Press