Manitoba's premier and top doctor are eyeing further loosening of COVID-19 restrictions which could see restaurants, gyms and places of worship reopen.
Now they want to hear what Manitobans think.
On Thursday, Premier Brian Pallister and Dr. Brent Roussin, the chief provincial public health officer, announced the proposed changes for the next round of health orders.
"We are not seeing any evidence of a spike in numbers related to the last set of very cautious reopenings. And so our numbers have been steady and trending in the right direction overall," Roussin said, adding the province is still at a crucial point in the pandemic response.
"These upcoming weeks are going to be quite telling as to the success we are going to be able to enjoy moving forward."
Roussin said while the entire province will remain under the red or critical level, the following changes are being considering:
- Allowing food services, such as restaurants and lounges, to reopen at 25 per cent capacity with a required closing time of 10 p.m. Groups of visitors must be from the same household;
- Allowing personal services, including nail salons and tattoo parlours, to reopen at 25 per cent capacity. Though they must follow physical distancing and enhanced PPE measures, and collect information for contact tracing;
- Allowing gyms to reopen at 25 per cent capacity. Gyms would be used for physically distanced one-on-one and individual training sessions only. No group classes would be allowed;
- Allowing places of worship to reopen at a maximum of 10 per cent capacity or 50 people, whichever is lower;
- Allowing libraries to reopen at a maximum of 25 per cent capacity. Groups of visitors must be from the same household;
- Allowing organized outdoor sports to resume for games or practices, though no multi-team tournaments would be permitted;
- Allowing the film industry to get back to work with safety protocols in place;
- Opening public washroom facilities with 25 per cent capacity and enhanced signage;
- Allowing weddings to include up to 10 people in addition to the officiant and photographer; and
- Allowing photographers to resume operations outdoors and with studio capacity limited to patron groups of household members only.
Roussin also said the new orders would clarify that addictions support and treatment groups can operate with adequate physical distancing measures in place.
“Two weeks ago, for the first time in over two months, we were able to make some modest changes to our public health orders and begin the process of safely and gradually reopening our economy and our communities," Pallister said.
"We are not out of the woods yet. We must stay on guard."
The province said it is considering bringing all health regions under the same restrictions. Under the current health orders, the Northern Health Region and Churchill are excluded from the recent loosening due to high COVID-19 case numbers.
The current health orders that include two designated visitors per household, outdoor gatherings of up to five people, and the reopening of retail stores, barber shops and hair salons at 25 per cent capacity will remain in place.
"We are going to continue with this very cautious approach. We can't open everything at once. We certainly don't want to open, close, and then have to reopen again," Roussin said. "We are going to do this gradual step."
Manitobans can give their feedback on the proposed changes to the orders by completing a survey online.
Roussin said the province is still under threat from vaccine shortages and COVID-19 variants.
"As we open, adherence to these protocols and these regulations is paramount," Roussin said.
"These orders are allowing us to get back to some of the things we miss and love, but we have to do so in a very cautious way or we are going to be at risk of having to shut down again."
The current round of health orders are set to expire on Friday, February 12, 2021, which is when the new round of health orders will take effect