After two months of partial lockdown, Manitoba on Thursday announced loosened rules that will take effect this weekend and allow people in most of the province to have two designated individuals over for a visit.
The looser rules do not apply to the northern part of Manitoba, where case numbers continue to rise.
Starting Saturday, residents outside that region will be allowed to have two additional people — family or friends — visit their household, under what provincial officials are calling “the rule of two,” and stores may begin selling non-essential goods again.
“These are cautious changes. They are changes that we’re making to ensure that we can continue to protect and safeguard Manitoba lives,” Premier Brian Pallister said Thursday.
“Today is a day of hope,” he said.
“It’s a day of optimism because unlike virtually every other jurisdiction in North America, Manitobans have actually, successfully bent the curve.”
For the past two months, the province has implemented its tightest restrictions since the pandemic began, banning virtually all household visitors and forbidding stores from selling items deemed non-essential.
The new rules will be in place for at least three weeks. They will allow people to have up to five visitors in their yards in addition to members of their household.
As well, the province will do away with its essential items list, which limited the type of products that could be sold in stores. Instead, stores will be able to sell their full range of products as long as physical distancing and occupancy limits are in place.
Stores must enforce occupancy limits of 25 per cent or a maximum of 250 people, whichever is lower.
Barber shops and hair stylists may also reopen at 25 per cent capacity, as long as physical distancing is in place and information is collected for contact tracing purposes.
Funerals will be allowed to have up to 10 people, plus the officiant, with COVID-19 protocols in place.
Non-regulated health services like pedorthists and reflexologists will be able to reopen with distancing in place and collection of contact tracing information.
New rules after 2 months of lockdown
Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief provincial public health officer, stressed that under the change to household visits, each household will be permitted to designate a specific two individuals — not a rotating list of visitors — who can visit indoors.
Manitoba’s current public health orders are set to expire on Friday at 11:59 p.m.
In recent weeks, COVID-19 case numbers have trended downward in the province as a whole. However northern Manitoba, has seen a spike in COVID-19 case numbers. On Thursday, more than half — 105 — of the nearly 200 new cases announced in the province were in the Northern Health Region.
“Right now in the northern region, there certainly are concerning outbreaks in specific remote communities, but that’s not it. There are cases that are dispersed throughout the northern region,” Roussin said.
“This iteration [of orders], it’s our first return to a more regionalized approach to our public health orders for quite some time, and so we are providing some more of that targeting that we tried to do early on in the fall.”
The new relaxed rules apply in the province’s other four health regions: the Winnipeg health region — except for the northern town of Churchill, which is technically part of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority — as well as the Southern, Interlake–Eastern and Prairie Mountain health regions.