New COVID-19 public health orders to be announced in Manitoba today

Manitoba’s top health officials will unveil the province’s latest public health orders on Wednesday afternoon but Manitobans have already been cautioned not to expect great changes just yet.

Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin will be joined by Lanette Siragusa, chief nursing officer for Manitoba Shared Health, for a 2:30 p.m. news conference. CBC Manitoba will live stream it here and on Facebook, Twitter and CBC Gem.

The current orders, set to expire June 12, forbid gatherings indoors and outdoors of people from different households, with an exception of one designated person for those who live alone.

The strict no-gathering order has been in place since before the May long weekend.

Only one person per household can enter a business to purchase items, though there are exceptions for people such as single parents and caregivers, and stores can only have 10 per cent capacity, or a maximum of 100 people, whichever is fewer.

Last week Dr. Jazz Atwal, deputy chief provincial public health officer, suggested Manitobans not hold their breaths for big changes in the latest orders. He told reporters he can only envision subtle changes, at best, with the new orders.

Roussin repeated that on Monday but offered hope for outdoor socializing to be allowed again soon.

“The outdoor gathering, that is lower risk than indoors,” he said Monday. “We’re hoping, within a short period of time — in the outdoor setting — we can extend that [gathering limit] slightly.

“We absolutely need to see a clear downward trend [in COVID-19 infections] and we’re at the early stages of that. But given that we have our ICUs under significant strain, we can’t expect this round [of health orders] to have any significant loosenings.”

The provincial government posted on online survey last Friday to seek Manitobans’ input on how to begin returning to normalcy as COVID-19 vaccination uptake climbs.

Questions aimed to gauge the level of fear of contracting COVID-19 while also asking about vaccination status, the province’s vaccine rollout so far, how people’s lives would be impacted if certain things were to reopen and what people would like to see reopen first.

One question asked how being able to travel within Canada without self-isolation, attending events and visiting loved ones in personal care homes or hospitals would improve an individual’s quality of life.

Part of that scenario moved from hypothetical to reality on Tuesday when Premier Brian Pallister announced the implementation of immunization cards for fully vaccinated people two weeks after they’ve received their second dose.

It will permit them to travel within Canada without having to self-isolate for two weeks upon their return to Manitoba.

Provincial restrictions currently require every visitor or resident entering Manitoba to isolate for two weeks upon arrival. Those orders have been in place in one form or another since April 2020.

Manitoba health-care facilities, including hospitals and personal care homes, will also permit expanded visitation if both the patient or resident and the visitor are fully vaccinated, and additional benefits will be announced in the coming weeks, Pallister said.