Fines issued in Manitoba as more than 100 protesters gather in Steinbach to protest COVID-19 restrictions

Less than an hour after Manitoba announced its highest single-day jump in COVID-19 deaths, dozens of people gathered in Steinbach to protest heightened public health restrictions implemented in Manitoba this week.

More than 100 people gathered Saturday afternoon city, located roughly 50 kilometres southeast of Winnipeg, to protest against additional restrictions that came into effect on Thursday. The entire province is now in the red, or critical, level on the province’s pandemic response system.

Some protesters brought their children with them.

Shortly before 3 p.m., provincial conservation and health officers who were in attendance started issuing fines to individuals participating in the protest. Some protesters, in turn, could be heard shouting profanities at the officers.

The protest comes a day after a nurse, who works in the emergency room at Bethesda Regional Health Centre in Steinbach, said the facility is over capacity and the workload on staff isn’t sustainable.

It also began less than an hour after the Manitoba government announced 15 more people have died from COVID-19. The deaths occurred from Nov. 2-13, but mark the largest number of COVID-19 deaths reported on a single day in Manitoba.

Gatherings are restricted to a maximum of five people under the current public health rules. However, Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin said this week that no one should be socializing with people they don’t live with.

Provincial fines for individuals who break public health rules are $1,296, while businesses can be fined $5,000.

Protesters were observed not practising physical distancing, or wearing protective masks. Some protesters wore other face coverings that obscured their faces, such as a Guy Fawkes mask, popularized by the film V for Vendetta.

Manitoba RCMP have blocked vehicle access to the rally.

Some counter-protesters were also present but remained in their vehicles.

Another 239 cases of COVID-19 were announced in Manitoba on Saturday. Forty of those were in the Southern Health region, which includes Steinbach.