Public health orders say Manitoba students can come home for the holidays … if they must

Some Manitoba students are permitted — but not advised — to go home for the holidays, and you can go into someone else’s house if you’re helping them move, according to new public health orders posted on Friday.

The new orders under the Public Health Act provide more detail than Manitobans have previously had about what will and will not be allowed over the holidays, and include a few additions and clarifications from previous iterations.

Under the new rules, landlords will be permitted to enter the homes of their tenants, university students living away from home can return to their normal residence for the holidays and community centres may open for activities that are permitted within the orders.

“Right now, we’re at a critical time, so I think that’s what we should focus on — how critical it is that we bring down these numbers,” said Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief public health officer, on Friday.

“It is a challenge for people. We’ve never said anything other than that.”

Roussin announced earlier this week the province would extend COVID-19 restrictions through holidays. At the time, he highlighted certain changes, including exemptions for drive-in events like church services, the sale of seasonal items like Christmas decorations and the reopening of thrift stores.

The order posted Friday says community centres may also open, as long as only permitted activities take place.

Some of those activities include skating, tobogganing, skiing and casual hockey — but not organized practices or games, and group sizes must remain below six.

“Even in small group sizes, we don’t want organized practice,” Roussin said Friday. “We just want people to be out and about and find ways to be active safely.”

In light of the new rules, the City of Brandon said in a news release Friday it will begin to reopen outdoor recreation facilities. Those include dog parks, toboggan hills, skating areas, playground structures, outdoor fitness equipment stations, the Brandon Community Sportsplex track and Kristopher Campbell skateboard plaza.

Flooding will also begin in preparation for skating on the city’s skating oval, but that’s not open just yet.

“The City of Brandon stresses that access to the above facilities is being restored with the expectation that anyone using those spaces must follow the Manitoba public health orders,” the city wrote in the release.

“The reopened status of these facilities will be monitored and re-evaluated if maintaining public safety becomes problematic.”

Even with exemptions, limit gatherings: Roussin

Regardless of what’s allowed, Roussin said the advice to Manitobans remains to stay home as much as possible.

“The overall message is to limit our gathering, especially this upcoming season, to those within our household,” he said. “There are exemptions. And even within those exemptions, we have caution, to ensure we’re reducing our amount of contacts.”

There are some cases where students aren’t permitted to stay in their school-year living situations during the holidays, he said. In those cases, it’s not against the rules for those students to return home.

“This traveling back to your, essentially, original residence, with your parents, is not a violation of the orders. So when that’s necessary, it certainly doesn’t violate the orders.”

It’s also OK to drop food off at a loved one’s home, he said — but he urged caution in that case, too.

“We do have a great deal of optimism that next year is going to look much different than where we are right now,” he said. “But this year, we have to maintain our focus.”