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

Manitoba is looking to gradually begin loosening the province’s level red coronavirus restrictions later this week.

It could include allowing businesses to reopen or sell non-essentials, or changes to rules surrounding gathering sizes and household contacts.

The province currently has a survey out, asking for public input on what restrictions should change or remain in place.

Epidemiologist Cynthia Carr says the approach will need to be slow and steady, and will likely be heavily based on data. Carr says the data for retail businesses and personal services looks favourable.

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“We know from previous experiences, certainly business owners and schools and other settings were really being careful and vigilant for the most part about adhering to safety standards,” Carr said.

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However, the data isn’t as favourable when it comes to gathering sizes and household contacts, Carr says.

“The data show that household spread is common, its quick, and its frequently asymptomatic,” she said. “And we know the longer people are together, the more opportunity there is for spread. Particularly now we know there’s variants that spread even faster or are better able to spread.

“So certainly we have to be very careful there.”

Click to play video 'Addressing vaccine hesitancy in Manitoba' Addressing vaccine hesitancy in Manitoba

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The Retail Council of Canada says retail businesses are beyond ready to reopen, and they can do so safely.

“We’d be disappointed if we don’t see a relaxing of the restrictions around retail, which are extremely complex,” John Graham, the prairie region director of government relations with the Retail Council of Canada, said.

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“We believe that it continues to be a safe environment that’s been disproportionally been impacted as part of a community-wide strategy to disrupt movement and keep people more at home.”

Read more: Coronavirus: Manitoba business advocates propose ‘sweet spot’ reopening strategy

Restaurants are also anxiously awaiting a loosening of the restrictions.

Shaun Jeffrey, the executive director of the Manitoba Restaurant & Foodservices Association, says they want more communication from the province and they need more notice.

“The average restaurant will take at least a week to two weeks to reopen,” Jeffrey said. “Especially when you’re closed for such a significant amount of time.

“You’re talking about having to order all their product, all their liquor, recalling staff that have maybe found new jobs during this time, so therefore having to hire new staff, and then getting their restaurant into that resemblance of whatever the new normal looks like.”

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