Gatherings with people outside household prohibited until Saturday in Manitoba

Public health orders that ban gatherings and cap store occupancy have been extended until Saturday in an effort to curb COVID-19 transmission and reduce stress on the pummelled health-care system.

People will only be allowed to gather with people they live with — except those who live alone can still have one designated visitor.

Only one person per household can enter a business to purchase items, though there are exceptions for people such as single parents and caregivers, Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin said on Tuesday.

Retail stores will have to remain at 10 per cent occupancy or a maximum of 100 people, whichever is fewer.

“Our case numbers remain too high. We have nearly 5,000 active cases, 69 per cent of those cases occurring in the last seven days,” Roussin said.

“We have to take stronger action, and take that action right now, to end transmission chains, to bring down these case numbers.”

WATCH | Dr. Brent Roussin and Premier Brian Pallister defend current restrictions:

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister and Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin defended the level of restrictions in the province after six doctors called for even tighter restrictions to stop COVID-19 from overwhelming intensive care units. 0:50

A number of businesses and organizations will have to stay closed to in-person service, including gyms and fitness clubs, restaurants and bars, personal service businesses, museums, galleries and libraries.

The strict no-gathering order was made before the May long weekend, a time that traditionally signals the beginning of summer in Manitoba.

No word on school reopening

Roussin says more clarity on how the restrictions will play out in the coming weeks will be announced later this week.

He says public health hasn’t yet determined what will happen with students who are currently learning from home in order to prevent further spread of COVID-19.

“If you look at our current trends and current numbers, we’re still quite concerned about that trajectory. We haven’t made any final determinations about schools, though,” Roussin said.

The remote learning period was originally set to end on May 30.

Premier Brian Pallister deflected a question about orders not being strict enough or coming too late, instead pointing the finger at people disobeying them and not getting tested for or vaccinated against the virus. 

“This is going to continue to elongate the third wave if those behaviours continue,” he said.

WATCH | Few options for restrictions left, Dr. Roussin says:

Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief public health officer, said Tuesday the province is running out of activities it can restrict through public health orders but is looking at “next steps” for what orders may hold. 0:42

However, a group of doctors called on the provincial government to shut down non-essential businesses and issue a stay-at-home order at a news conference Tuesday morning.

Dr. Pam Orr, an infectious disease specialist who’s one of six Manitoba doctors who took part in the news conference, said many COVID-19 patients report that they caught the virus at their non-essential workplaces, despite their best efforts to follow public health guidelines.

When asked about closing non-essential businesses, Pallister said Manitoba’s occupancy limits in retail stores are lower than other provinces.

Roussin said public health officials would determine if further action needs to be taken.

The public health order extension comes after Manitoba sent four more critically ill COVID-19 patients to hospitals in Ontario to create room in strained intensive care units.

The province announced on Tuesday it is slowing down more non-critical surgeries effective immediately to redeploy nurses and increase ICU capacity.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said federal government supports announced over the weekend, including a dozen out-of-province critical care nurses and help from the Canadian Red Cross and Armed Forces, are on the way.

WATCH | Pallister says province didn’t foresee how big the third wave spike would be:

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister said Tuesday the province was prepared for a third wave, but did not foresee how large the spike in cases would be. Pallister said the province didn’t seek federal help a month ago because it was offering help at the time to other provinces struggling with COVID-19. 1:35