Anyone entering Manitoba, including people coming from Western Canada, will have to self-isolate for 14 days starting Friday.
Manitoba’s public health orders will be amended to include the travel restriction, Premier Brian Pallister announced Tuesday.
“These measures are necessary to protect us from a more deadly version of the coronavirus that is not, as some would sadly hope, a short-term thing,” he said.
The travel restriction is designed to stop non-essential travel, by land or by air, and applies to people visiting the province and returning Manitobans.
The order is being made out of an abundance of caution, in response to the “real danger” of COVID-19 variants, Pallister said.
Manitobans who are currently out of the province have until 11:59 p.m. Thursday to return without having to self-isolate. If they arrive after that, they’ll have to quarantine for two weeks.
That includes people entering from northern and Western Canada and from west of Terrace Bay in Ontario, who did not have to self-isolate under previous health orders.
Current exemptions to self-isolation measures are still in effect, including those travelling for essential interprovincial work and people travelling for medical reasons.
People living in border communities travelling to another province for essential reasons, such as to get groceries, are also exempt, Pallister said.
There is no proposed end date for the travel restrictions.
Public health officials are concerned about the risks a COVID-19 variant could pose in Manitoba.
“Early analysis shows, depending on the study you’re reading, that it can be up to 70 per cent more communicable and have the same impacts on morbidity, mortality and hospitalizations, if not worse, depending on what study we’re looking at, compared to what we have in the community right now,” acting deputy chief public health officer Dr. Jazz Atwal said in a conference call on Tuesday.
“We want to try to get ahead of it. We want to try to protect Manitobans, right? We want to ensure that those things are in place that mitigate that risk of that virus coming into Manitoba and if it does come into Manitoba, that we’re able to respond to it quickly.”
The premier is also calling on the federal government to bring in additional restrictions and enforcement for international travellers coming into the country.
“Stepping up the rules around travel, making sure there’s additional enforcement are critical to this,” Pallister said.
“Premiers have been urging the federal government on these measures for some time, and now I’m encouraged to hear word that the federal government may be proposing to take some action in the very near future.”
Pallister said he wishes he had taken more steps to enforce public health measures earlier.
“If I have a regret from last year, I would suggest it was that we were trying too hard to educate, perhaps, and not enough maybe to make it clear that there are serious consequences if you don’t want to abide by the rules,” he said.
“We don’t want to make those mistakes again. We want to learn from them.”