Starting at 11:59 p.m. Thursday, anyone travelling to Manitoba for non-essential reasons will have to self-isolate for two weeks, as the new public health order comes into effect.
The amendment, announced by Premier Brian Pallister earlier this week, aims to stop non-essential air and land travel.
Cases of COVID-19 variants from the U.K. and South Africa, which are more transmissible — and potentially more deadly — than the original strain of COVID-19, have been reported in other Canadian provinces. By closing the provincial border, the hope is variants won’t spread in Manitoba.
“We’re seeing the presence of these variants growing around the world. We’re seeing a number of these cases appearing in Canada,” said Pallister during a news conference Tuesday.
“We’re acting out of a sense of concern and, out of an abundance of caution, we feel these measures are necessary now.”
So far, there are no reported cases of the COVID-19 variant in Manitoba, says Dr. Jazz Atwal, Manitoba’s acting deputy chief public health officer.
A copy of the public health order was released Thursday. Travellers entering Manitoba must go directly to their home, hotel or “other residence” where they intend to stay, then remain there for 14 days, or for the duration of their stay if the trip is less than 14 days, the document says.
There are specific circumstances where someone can leave their residence, however.
A person can leave to run essential errands, such as getting food or medication, if those items cannot be delivered. Someone can also attend a health appointment if it can’t be postponed or conducted virtually, or for urgent or emergency care, the order says.
If someone must leave their residence, they must maintain physical distancing, limit how long they’re gone and return to their residence immediately after finishing the errand or appointment.
Someone who travels to Manitoba to visit someone potentially on their deathbed in a health-care facility, can only leave isolation to visit the person. But the health-care facility must authorize the visit and the visitor must not have COVID-19 symptoms.
Anyone travelling to Manitoba for a funeral must isolate except for the service, assuming they do not show symptoms.
Anyone self-isolating who develops COVID-19 symptoms — such as a cough, fever, runny nose, sore throat, headache, difficulty breathing, loss of taste or smell — must immediately contact a health-care provider, the order says.
Some exceptions to self-isolation
The order coming into effect Thursday night exempts certain groups of people from having to self-isolate if they travel to or through Manitoba, but only if they are not showing symptoms of COVID-19.
Anyone who provides “vital services” in Manitoba, such as health-care workers, first responders and politicians, and people transporting goods and materials into or through Manitoba, such as truckers, are exempted from self-isolating.
Aircraft and train crews, film crews, professional hockey teams, and construction or maintenance workers who live outside Manitoba, but work on a project in the province, are also exempt, the order says.
People travelling through Manitoba to get to another province do not have to self-isolate if they only stop in Manitoba for gas, food, or “other necessities,” the order says.
People travelling into Manitoba for medical emergencies, to take part in a trial, or for shared parenting arrangements are exempt.
Anyone who finished a self-isolation period elsewhere in Canada, then travelled to Manitoba immediately after their isolation ended, are exempt too, the order says.
Manitobans who leave the province after the order comes into effect are only exempt from self-isolating if travel was solely for work or official duties, the order says.
Residents of communities near the provincial border who regularly travel to and from Manitoba, such as Flin Flon, Man., and Creighton, Sask., are exempt but must travel the minimum required amount per trip, limit their use of local services and comply with the jurisdiction’s public health rules, the order says.
This also applies to Manitobans who own cottages in northwestern Ontario, according to Atwal.
“Those individuals who regularly have a place, or a cottage, or a secondary property close to the border would be able to attend to it,” Atwal told reporters during a briefing Thursday, adding that a similar exception was made in past public health orders.
“If you’re asymptomatic, you can go to your cottage. The expectation is to stay there and then on your return, don’t use local services [in the neighbouring province].”