By Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG — The Manitoba government is tightening rules aimed at controlling the spread of COVID-19 amid the growing threat posed by variants of the virus.
People will be considered contacts of a case — and be required to undergo testing and self-isolation — if they have been in close range of an infection for 10 minutes.
The previous time frame was 15 minutes.
The province is also ending an exemption that allowed some household members of a positive case to avoid self-isolation.
Going forward, everyone in the same home as a positive case will have to self-isolate and get tested.
The province’s COVID-19 numbers continue to plateau after a sharp spike last fall and a drop in December and January.
Health officials reported 97 new cases Monday and two deaths.
Dr. Brent Roussin, chief public health officer, said he expects case counts may increase slightly as the provincial government recently relaxed some restrictions on businesses.
Restaurants, gyms, museums, tattoo parlours and many other establishments were given the green light to open their doors again, at 25 per cent capacity, earlier this month. People are also allowed to have a maximum of two visitors in their homes, but they must be the same two people for the duration of current public health orders.
The government also announced Monday it is extending an advertising campaign that reminds Manitobans to follow public-health guidelines. The $455,000 campaign includes ads on television, radio and digital platforms.
In addition, the province is bumping up funding — to $5 million from $3 million — for its Safe at Home program. The money is given to cultural events, fitness instructors, culinary chefs and others who provide free livestreams of programming that people can enjoy at home.
“We know this … programming has improved our quality of life while helping us stop the spread of COVID-19,” Sport, Culture and Heritage Minister Cathy Cox said.
Premier Brian Pallister said the Progressive Conservative government is looking at further business openings over the long term, including government-run casinos and professional sports with fans in the stands.
But any large crowd events are a long way off, he said.
“This discussion is underway, but I would emphasize it’s premature at this stage to talk about large group gatherings,” Pallister said.
“I don’t want to create a false sense of optimism that we’re in a rush to get these things going too quickly, because that’s not the case.”