The proposed changes to Manitoba’s code red restrictions

WINNIPEG — Manitoba is proposing changes to the current code red restrictions, which may allow some friends and family to visit in homes, allow more stores in the province to reopen, and could allow Manitobans to get a haircut – but not all of Manitoba can expect to see relaxed restrictions.

Manitoba’s top doctor said the proposed changes, which were released Tuesday morning, would balance the needs of the health-care system and the economy, but protect Manitobans at the same time.

“Certainly, the overall theme is a cautious approach,” Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief public health officer. “We don’t want to go back and forth. We want to have a slow, cautious approach so we can continue reopening over time and not have to go back and close certain things again.”

More than 67,500 people completed the provincial survey on health orders over the past four days. The province said the feedback from this survey helped shape the proposed changes to the code red restrictions.

Roussin said the province is considering easing restrictions around three specific areas in this next round of health orders.

VISITING IN HOMES

Under the current public health orders, which are set to expire on Friday, Jan. 22, visitors to private residences are currently restricted, with the exception of support people, trades workers, and limited visitors for people who live alone.

The province proposed – for the sake of the personal connections and well-being of Manitobans – to allow two people, either friends or family, to visit a home. Roussin said this would mean any two people would be able to visit at one time.

“We want that messaging to be clear that these are close family members, close friends that you need that connection with,” Roussin said. “We still want to limit the amount of contacts we have.”

It would allow up to five people, plus household members, to visit outdoors on private property.

The province said 77 per cent of the people surveyed said the ability to gather with people outside their homes was important. Roussin said there is a concern that the eased restriction could lead to larger gatherings.

“A lot of this is going to depend on Manitobans’ actions. If we start seeing transmission of that virus again, we are not going to be able to further reopen,” Roussin said. “No matter what restrictions we have in place, it really comes down to Manitobans adhering to our public health messaging.”

The proposed changes could also see funerals allow up to 10 people in addition to the officiant.

SHOPPING IN STORES AND GETTING A HAIR CUT

The province is also proposing changes to retail sales, allowing stores to open with no restrictions in place on what they can sell. The physical distancing limits and occupancy limits would remain in place, and will still be enforced.

The province said 74 per cent of the people surveyed saw the ability to shop without any limitations as a priority.

The proposed changes also suggest barbershops and hairstylists can reopen at 25 per cent capacity, though they would be required to collect information for contact tracing – something 70 per cent of the people surveyed said they saw as being important.

Non-regulated health services, such as podiatrists and reflexologists, may also be allowed to open, though they too would be required to follow physical distancing and collect information for contact tracing.

Roussin said there are no proposed changes to restaurants – which are not allowed to open for in-person dining. He said people sitting and eating together might pose a greater risk of transmission.

There are no proposed changes to the restrictions on recreational and organized sports, gyms and fitness centres, places of worship, tattoo parlours, and nail salons.

“We can’t open everything at once,” he said. “There will be an end to this pandemic. We just have to ensure that we are reopening things in a very safe and cautious manner so that we can be ready for that end.”

NOT ALL OF MANITOBA TO SEE EASED RESTRICTIONS

While regions including Winnipeg, Southern Health, Interlake-Eastern, and Prairie Mountain Health are expected to see some restrictions eased when health orders expire on Friday, Roussin said the Northern Health Region is likely going to remain under the strict code red restrictions given the high case count.

As of Tuesday, the region had 1,459 active cases of COVID-19 – the highest of any region in the province.

Roussin said the proposed changes outlined are only considerations at this point. He said the province will make the final decision on the health orders later this week and will release more details on Thursday. The new health orders are set to take effect on Saturday.

He said this next round of health orders will likely be in place for three weeks.

Manitobans can submit their feedback on the proposed changes by visiting EngageMB.ca.

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