Coronavirus: Are Manitobans crossing provincial borders to shop?

It’s not uncommon to see Manitoba licence plates in neighbouring communities outside the province, but those same licence plates appear to have some residents of those areas feeling uneasy as of late.

Yorkton, Sask., for example, is popular shopping destination for Manitobans close to the border.

Last weekend, after the Manitoba government restricted the sale of non-essential items at businesses allowed to remain open, some Yorkton residents argue they’ve seen an increase in the number of Manitoba plates in their parking lots.

Read more: Manitoba’s COVID-19 restrictions create concerns for workers, small businesses

“There probably are more (Manitoba plates),” Yorkton Councillor Darcy Zaharia said.

“If they can shop here for Christmas presents and they can’t shop in Manitoba because you’re only selling essentials, chances are we are getting more people here.”

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For the most part, Zaharia believes there’s heightened awareness in Yorkton and people are paying more attention to out-of-town vehicles given the rising COVID-19 cases across the country.

Zaharia said the city still welcomes visitors, including Manitobans.

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He just asks they follow local coronavirus guidelines.

“There just seems to be such a split review on what’s going on,” Zaharia said.

“Manitobans come here all the time anyway to shop. We welcome that.”

Read more: Stay-at-home tourism a silver lining to pandemic restrictions, says Tourism Manitoba

Meanwhile in Kenora, Ont., another popular destination for Manitobans, the city updated its screening process for everyone entering its buildings and facilities.

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Anyone who was in Manitoba within 14 days of trying to enter a city building will not be allowed inside.

“There are tighter guidelines in place to protect our staff, our users, our community,” Kenora Mayor Dan Reynard said.

Reynard said he’s heard anecdotally about Manitobans in Kenora for non-essential business.

However, he believes the majority of out-of-towners spotted in the city are there for work or because they live in town.

“Sometimes I think the rumour mill makes it a lot worse than it actually is,” Reynard said.

Read more: For Canadians living abroad, a COVID-19 Christmas means difficult decisions

Manitoba’s Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin said Thursday he discourages non-essential travel, but isn’t advocating for shutting down provincial borders.

“If you look at the community transmission and our incidents here, we’re not that different than many of these other provinces, so in that way, restricting travel between the provinces doesn’t grant us a lot of benefit,” Roussin said.

Travellers coming from western Canada or northwestern Ontario are exempt from Manitoba’s self-isolation requirements.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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