New code red COVID-19 restrictions coming to Southern Health region

Manitoba’s top doctor has moved the Southern Health region to the red or critical level on the province’s pandemic response system.

Dr. Brent Roussin announced the news on Friday, saying the region will be placed under increased restrictions beginning on Monday, Nov. 9.

The region has reported 1,083 cases of COVID-19 since March, with 52 new cases identified in the region as of Friday.

“As we can see, our cases have gone in the wrong direction,” Roussin said. “We are seeing more cases, more strain on the health care system, and so further action is required.”

Roussin said these new restrictions will include:

  • All restaurants and bars will be closed with take-out, drive-thru, and delivery options only;
  • Cultural and religious gatherings will be limited to 15 per cent capacity or 100 people, whichever is lower;
  • Grocery stores and pharmacies will remain at 50 per cent capacity;
  • Most retail businesses will be reduced to 25 per cent capacity or five people, whichever is higher. These limits do not include employees;
  • Movie theatres and concert halls will close;
  • Personal services have no change and stay at 50 per cent capacity;
  • All recreational facilities along with all indoor and outdoor sports facilities will be closed;
  • Gyms and fitness centres will be limited to 25 per cent capacity, with masks mandatory even while exercising;
  • VLTs and other gaming establishments will be closed;
  • Non-urgent and elective surgeries and diagnostics will be suspended. Scheduled surgeries in several essential and time-sensitive areas will continue to be performed including cancer, cardiac, and trauma. Patients will be contacted directly if their scheduled surgeries are affected;
  • In-patient visitation to hospitals or health centres will be suspended, with exceptions made on a case-by-case basis for patients receiving end-of-life care, in labour and delivery, as well as in pediatrics; and
  • Designated family caregivers may continue to visit personal care homes. General visitation may be suspended with exceptions in place for end-of-life care. General visitation to outdoor visitation shelters will be implemented, once operational.

“It is the intent that these new orders will halt the spread of the virus, decrease the transmission of the virus in the community,” Roussin said.

He said public health recommends households limit the time spent outside the home and, if possible, only send one person out for essential errands.

Roussin asked businesses in the area to have staff work from home whenever possible.

He said, just like in the Winnipeg Metro Region, anyone in the Southern Health region who is symptomatic or has a symptomatic household member, the entire household must self-isolate pending the results of a COVID-19 test.

That symptomatic person must stay in their own room, use their own bathroom, and avoid common areas within the home if possible.

The province said there are exceptions for asymptomatic household members if they are essential workers required to wear PPE while at work, such as health-care workers or first responders.

Roussin said he recognizes these restrictions are tough on people, and has heard that some people in the region are upset over increased restrictions.

“Everyone certainly acknowledges that these restrictions are difficult, we want to leave them on for the shortest amount of time necessary, we want to leave them at the least restrictive means necessary to make a change,” he said.

“I think it should be very, very clear that we need a change right now, so I’m asking Manitobans to step up in the short term so that we can really make a difference in the transmission of this virus.”

HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY BRACING FOR CODE RED

The new restrictions are the latest blow to the hospitality industry. Restaurants in Portage la Prairie are bracing for the impact of another closure.

“It was a surprise, but with our year so far nothing’s really a surprise,” Stan Killam, owner of Mr. Mike’s Steakhouse Casual, told CTV News Friday. “We put our money and livelihood into this.”

Killam opened last January, just seven weeks before the first shutdown. 

“It’s so difficult to have to go around on Monday and basically let go of all your employees once again.

Killam said he is better prepared this time around. “We will go to our limited menu, our takeout and delivery,” he said. “But for long? Again you have no idea. We still have an overhead. You still have everything you have to pay for..”

RELIGIOUS GATHERINGS CAPPED 

Under the code red restrictions, places of worship in Southern Health will be allowed to remain open at 15 per cent capacity or up to 100 people. 

“We half expected it,” Rev. Walter Fast, lead pastor at Steinbach Mennonite Brethren Church said Friday. “We get it, if we have to get the numbers down, then we want to do whatever we can.” 

However, Fast said he would prefer a hard shut down for a short period of time. “We’re already live-streaming the services, we’ve been doing the last six or seven months, so that will continue.” 

Roussin was asked why the province didn’t go a step further and shut down places of worship in Southern Health. 

“It’s the capacity that’s really important. If you think about the size, the occupancy that must be accommodated to get anywhere near a 100 in (a place of worship) we would have a lot of spacing,” said Roussin.  

A full list of these restrictions can be found here: