Coronavirus: Manitoba health officials clarify new rules for household gatherings during COVID-19

As Manitoba moves to ease COVID-19 restrictions, some of the new rules around household gatherings have left some Manitobans scratching their heads.

Under the new public health orders, which go into effect at midnight Friday, Manitobans living in southern and central areas of the province will now be allowed to designate up to two people to have over at their house.

Read more: More store openings, expanded household visits coming under new Manitoba COVID-19 orders

And while that may seem simple enough, Global News received a number of emails after the new orders were announced Thursday, looking for clarification.

We took several of the questions to Dr. Jazz Atwal, Manitoba’s acting deputy chief public health officer. Here’s what he had to say.

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Q: Once I’ve designated two people to come to my house, can I then go to an outside person’s house and be part of their two designated people?

A: No. Atwal says if you’re part of someone’s designated two visitors, they should part of yours as well.

“We want the same people interacting,” Atwal explained. “We don’t want a number of different households interacting. We don’t want two people going to 10 different homes on a regular basis.”

Q: What if I live in a household with more than two people, say a family of four? Can all four of us visit the home or homes of our designated two visitors?

Read more: Coronavirus: Manitoba reports further vaccine supply disruptions, 2 additional deaths

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A: While Atwal acknowledged it might make sense the family of four could visit the home of their designated visitors, it simply isn’t allowed under the orders.

“We understand that at times there will be two people who visit four, and out of those four people only two can visit two, but it keeps it simple, which is what we want,” he said.

“We don’t want confusion with the orders…we want to again limit those interactions and again spirit of the order is to kind of create that bubble.”

Q: What if a couple has small children, are they allowed to bring their children along with them when visiting their designated household?

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A: Again, no. Atwal says that would go against the spirit of the order.

“If it’s a parent and one child that goes and visits, let’s say grandparents and they’re the designated people, that’s OK,” he said.

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“Hence those grandparents can visit the two parents and those two kids in the family of four home, in the home with the two parents and the two kids as well.”

Read more: Manitoba considers allowing all stores to reopen amid ‘modest’ changes to coronavirus restrictions

Q: What about hairstylists who work out of their homes, can they have clients over?

A: Yes, Atwal says registered hairstylists can have a client come to their home to perform services allowed under the orders. Under the orders hairstylists and barbers are allowed to wash, cut, colour and style hair.

Q: How should people behave with the two designated people getting together at their home?

A: Atwal says it’s important to stay vigilant against the spread of COVID-19 even with the two designated visitors. He said the same precautions you’d take while shopping should be practiced with your guests.

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“You still need to distance, wear that mask, wash your hands when you come into the house, use alcohol sanitizer in the home as well,” he said.

“People might think the risk is low because this is my bubble. But again, you’re interacting with someone. There’s risk there. There’s no zero-risk situation.”

Read more: Manitoba businesses holding out hope level red restrictions will ease this week

The latest public health orders will also see non-essential retail stores allowed to reopen at 25 per cent capacity. Hair salons, barber shops and some personal health services such as reflexology can restart as well.

The changes will last three weeks, at which time more openings could be considered, Atwal said. The changes are not being made in the northern health region, where outbreaks in isolated communities have caused a spike in case numbers in recent weeks.

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On Friday the province said two more Manitobans with COVID-19 have died and reported 173 new infections, including 64 in the Northern health region.

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Atwal said if Manitobans want to see further loosening of restrictions in the future, it’s vital to follow the public health orders now.

Read more: Manitoba coronavirus restrictions extended for 2 weeks, adjustment allows Winnipeg Jets to play

“This isn’t about trying to skirt an order to try to find a loophole in something,” he said.

“I think Manitobans understand what’s at stake here and they need to do those fundamental things to make sure that we’re able to move forward and move ahead of where we’re at and make sure that we continue to look at opening things up.”

— With files from Malika Karim and The Canadian Press

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

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Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus. In some provinces and municipalities across the country, masks or face coverings are now mandatory in indoor public spaces.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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