Quebec’s Christmas exemption ‘dangerous,’ better to plan for a virtual holiday: Pallister

Premier Brian Pallister is urging Manitobans not to gather in groups, and to only spend the holidays with people inside their homes this year due to the province’s high COVID-19 numbers, saying it could be a matter of life or death. 

He said he could not predict whether the ban on indoor gatherings will still be in effect by then, but encouraged Manitobans to find alternative ways to connect with their loved ones.

“I’m not trying to deprive people of a wonderful Christmas, I’m trying to make sure we define Christmas differently,” he said during a news conference Tuesday about enforcement measures for public health orders. 

“And the way we define our holiday season this year is we do our very very best to keep all of our family around so that we can all be together at Christmas.”

As of last Friday, visitors are forbidden in private residences, with a few exceptions. Health officials said last week that restriction is expected to be in place until at least Dec. 11.

At his Tuesday morning news conference, the Manitoba premier also slammed Quebec’s plan to allow small groups of friends and family to see each other from Dec. 24 through Dec. 27. It’s a dangerous decision, Pallister said.

“There’s a different way to celebrate. It’s not an easy way to celebrate, it’s not the normal way to celebrate, but it’s the right way to celebrate and it’s the way we have to do it,” he said.

“I think that the right thing to do is not to tell people you can get together in a large group at the holiday season. As tempting as that is, I think that’s a mistake.”

CBC News has reached out to the Quebec government for comment. 

Pallister’s comments come a day after Manitoba once again broke its record for daily COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, with 546 new cases announced Monday.

Another 476 new cases were announced Tuesday, along with 12 more COVID-19-related deaths in Manitoba, bringing the death toll since the start of the pandemic to 248.

With Christmas more than a month away, Dr. Brent Roussin, the province’s chief public health officer, said it is possible that public health restrictions could be slightly altered if case counts start to trend down. 

But typical, large family gatherings are out of the question for Christmas this year.

“We’re certainly not going to be at a holiday season that’s like any other where you can have a large family gathering, but we’re really going to try to get those numbers down to see if we can’t have some remnants of a holiday season outside of our household,” he said.