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Manitoba ticketing retailers not following coronavirus health orders as Black Friday sales start

Manitoba plans to continue cracking down on retailers not following public health orders as officials say COVID-19 is starting to impact vulnerable populations at a higher rate.

Dr. Brent Roussin, the province’s chief public health officer, announced 344 new cases and 14 more deaths on Friday.

Read more: Manitoba reports 14 new coronavirus deaths, 344 new cases Friday

“The weekend is coming up, so there’s always those urges to get together with others or to run non-essential errands,” Roussin said.

“But my ask to you is to stay home.”

Click to play video 'Coronavirus: Manitoba’s top doctor says capacity in health-care system is ‘stretched’' Coronavirus: Manitoba’s top doctor says capacity in health-care system is ‘stretched’

Coronavirus: Manitoba’s top doctor says capacity in health-care system is ‘stretched’

There’s been a surge of COVID-19 cases in Manitoba over the last few months and the province has brought in significant restrictions, including mandated masks in indoor public spaces and the closure of restaurants and bars.

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Churches and stores that sell non-essential goods are also supposed to be closed. Retailers allowed to stay open are required to block off non-essential products, although they can still be purchased online for curbside pickup.

Read more: Manitoba sees 10 new coronavirus deaths, 383 new cases reported Thursday

The province issued a $5,000 ticket to a Winnipeg Costco this week for selling non-essential items.

The Church of God near Steinbach was also issued a $5,000 ticket for holding a service last Sunday. The church has posted online its intention to hold another service this weekend.

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Late in the day Friday, Steinbach RCMP sent out a media release reminding Manitobans of the rules.

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“Our goal is certainly not to hand out a bunch of tickets,” said Staff Sgt. Harold Laninga.

“We want to keep everyone from coming to a large gathering in the first place.”

“It is important to us that all citizens are aware of what the current orders are so they can abide by them. As always, our first and foremost goal is to keep everyone safe, and in these unprecedented times, that means staying at home.”

Roussin said enforcement will continue because Manitoba’s health-care system cannot sustain its current rate of infections. There were 322 people in hospital with COVID-19 on Friday, with 45 of them in intensive care.

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Coronavirus: Manitoba’s top doctor says work being done on vaccine rollout, but no specifics yet

“These orders are in place to save Manitobans’ lives,” Roussin said. “An organization or individuals trying to find ways around it need to understand you are putting Manitobans at risk.”

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COVID-19 has begun to disproportionately affect vulnerable populations during the second wave, he added. There has been an increase of infections in homeless shelters, group homes and other services.

Read more: Yes, many COVID-19 patients have underlying conditions. But that shouldn’t be the focus: Dr. Roussin

The government announced earlier Friday plans to provide a wage top-up to people who work in group homes, homeless shelters and personal care homes.

Families Minister Heather Stefanson said the $35-million wage support program is to provide an extra $5 an hour to about 20,000 front-line workers for two months. Stefanson said it will help workers who are facing a lot of stress as infections increase.

Only workers making less than $25 an hour can apply.

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Coronavirus: Manitoba’s top doctor urges people to be respectful to contact tracers

“Our homeless shelters are also experiencing staff shortages due to positive cases and we are seeing the virus spread into our child and family services group care homes,” Stefanson said.

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She did not provide numbers of infections in these facilities or populations, but said that as of Thursday there were infections among workers and participants in 16 disability service agencies.

Read more: Hundreds of City of Winnipeg employees face temporary layoffs under coronavirus closures

Employees who are unable to work due to a COVID-19 infection or are waiting for test results will not receive the money. Stefanson said she does not believe it will incentivize people to work while sick.

Half the cost of the program comes from federal COVID-19 funding.

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

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.

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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.

© 2020 The Canadian Press

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