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Opening up


Manitobans can now get a haircut, buy a change of clothes and get together in small numbers.
Limited changes to the public health orders are in effect for the next three weeks, in an effort to balance protection of the health care system while gradually restoring services and activities.
“We recognize the significant sacrifices all Manitobans have made throughout this pandemic and especially in the last two months, to protect themselves, their loved ones and their community,” Premier Brian Pallister said.
“Thanks to their willingness, compassion and dedication to follow the strict public health orders, we are now in a position to cautiously and gradually reduce some restrictions, while ensuring we continue to protect and safeguard Manitoba lives. Manitobans have earned this day and Manitobans now have the opportunity to earn such days in the future.”
Previous restrictions in the orders will remain, with the following changes in effect for the Winnipeg (except for Churchill), Southern Health–Santé Sud, Interlake–Eastern and Prairie Mountain Health regions:
• Household limits - orders will be expanded to allow increased personal connections to support the wellbeing of Manitobans by allowing two designated people to visit a household under a new rule of two. Outdoor visits of up to five people only plus members of a household will be allowed on an outdoor private property and funerals can be comprised of up to 10 people in addition to the officiant under clear COVID-19 protection protocols.
• Retail operations - orders will be expanded to eliminate the essential items list, allowing all stores to open for the sale of products provided they maintain physical distancing and occupancy limits of 25 per cent only or a maximum of 250 people, whichever is lower.
• Health and personal services - orders will be expanded to allow for the operation of basic services that promote physical and mental health for Manitobans. Non-regulated health services, such as pedorthists and reflexologists can reopen with adequate physical distancing and requirements to collect information for contact tracing purposes. Barbershops and hairstylists can also reopen at 25 per cent capacity with adequate physical distancing and requirements to collect information for contact tracing purposes.
Given the high case counts in northern Manitoba communities, the changes outlined above will not apply to that region or Churchill. Household restrictions, retail operations limited to essential items only, and health and service operations will remain limited to regulated health professions.
“Our collective progress in bending the COVID curve means we can undertake these careful, measured openings,” Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief provincial public health officer, said.
“But we must stick to the fundamentals of physical distancing, washing hands and wearing a mask in our daily lives to keep this success going.”
Roussin explained the current high COVID case numbers and test positivity rates in northern Manitoba where the virus continues to affect remote and isolated communities, including First Nation communities, means Manitoba is not yet in a position to ease restrictions in this region.
As steps are taken toward a safe, gradual reopening to protect Manitobans, the province will continue to engage Manitobans to provide their feedback via EngageMB, Pallister noted.
Manitobans were invited to provide feedback on the proposed reopening plans and from Jan. 19 to 21. A total of 35,052 responses were provided, and included:
• 62.1 per cent of respondents agreed that household limits should be increased to allow for two people with whom you regularly interact to visit your residence and up to five people outdoors on private property and that funerals should be permitted to have up to 10 people, in addition to officiants;
• 73.1 per cent of respondents agreed reopening non-regulated health professions, hairstylists and barbershops is an appropriate next step in a gradual reopening; and
• 76.4 per cent of respondents agreed eliminating the essential items list and limiting retail capacity to 25 per cent or 250 patrons, or whichever is lower, is an appropriate next step in gradual reopening.
Pallister reiterated the province will monitor COVID-19 developments carefully and will make further adjustments to ease restrictions or re-impose restrictions depending on the success in keeping COVID-19 at bay.

Staff Writer