Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister speaks at a press conference during the Council of Federation meetings in Edmonton on July 18, 2017. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson)

Manitoba's Premier says Manitobans need to take drastic action to flatten the curve during the second wave of COVID-19 and said the province is considering a curfew in its largest city and surrounding areas.

Premier Brian Pallister, speaking to media on Monday, said he is asking the province to weigh in on the possibility of implementing a curfew in the Winnipeg Metro Region as a way to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“We’re giving serious consideration to implementing a curfew, a curfew that would be designed to restrict travel between key hours, when gathering sizes tend to be dangerously in excess of the rules, late-night hours obviously,” he said.

“These late-night situations in Winnipeg have expanded our number of COVID cases very significantly. According to Dr. Roussin, this is an action we should seriously consider, and I am considering it now.”

Pallister said over the Halloween weekend, several Halloween parties and large gatherings were advertised online. The Winnipeg Metro Region enters Code Red restrictions today for at least two weeks, while the other health regions in Manitoba are now in the orange or restricted level.

In both levels, gathering sizes are limited to five people, as the province said it will help reduce the transmission of the virus. Bars and restaurants are now closed in Winnipeg and surrounding areas for dine-in services but can operate with take-out or delivery services.

An online survey will be posted on EngageMB to get feedback.

Pallister also said Manitobans also need to significantly reduce their personal contacts by 75 per cent for at least the month of November, citing advice from Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer.

“She said last week that the most significant thing Canadians can do to arrest the COVID curve and ultimately to flatten it is to reduce their personal contacts by half,” Pallister said. “Here in Manitoba, I believe we need to drop those personal contacts by more than that.”

Pallister said details on increased enforcement for people violating public health orders are coming later this week.

“We’ve got some folks who think they’re never going to get caught, that there’s no consequence, and they’re not behaving the way the rest of us would like to, or (how) we are,” he said, adding in his opinion, the number of tickets handed out for not following public health orders is too low.

Pallister said he would answer later in the week if a curfew will come into effect. 

In a news conference Monday afternoon, Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman said if the province feels this is the right course of action, they should go ahead with it, but he also wants to hear more information on the province.

“I would encourage them to just do it, and not wait another day for a survey,” he said. “The virus doesn’t take a night off, it’s in our community right now, and if the epidemiology and the evidence would support a curfew, then I think the province should just simply introduce that measure in a timely fashion and not wait for a survey.”

MANITOBA OPPOSITION PARTIES REACT

Manitoba opposition leader Wab Kinew said he believes Manitobans have lost confidence in the Pallister government’s plans to handle the pandemic.

“Every measure that he said he is thinking about doing today is something that should have been done weeks ago,” Kinew said. “And, worse, he ignored the number-one priority out there, which is increasing ICU bed capacity, offering support for local businesses who are going to be hurting because of the new restrictions, and coming up with concrete new plans to keep students safe in classrooms.”

Kinew said the new measures on enforcement will likely not lead to a decrease in COVID-19 cases, and said the focus should be ensuring the ICU capacity.

In a statement, the Manitoba Liberals are calling for a two-week shutdown of the province to help stop the spread of COVID-19, and said the province should pass a bill within 24 hours to provide two weeks worth of revenue to businesses that have to close due to the new code red restrictions.