Unvaccinated Manitobans to face slew of new public health rules ahead of Thanksgiving
The Manitoba government introduced new public health orders set to take effect next week, which will create new restrictions on gatherings for those who are unvaccinated.
On Friday, the province announced it is moving back to the orange (restricted) level on the pandemic response system, after shifting to level yellow (caution) in August. This move will not affect schools at this time, and schools will remain at level yellow to make sure kids can remain in school as much as possible.
Manitoba also revealed new public health orders, which are set to take effect on Tuesday, Oct. 5, that largely affect unvaccinated residents.
"These new public health orders will allow fully vaccinated Manitobans to continue to enjoy as much freedom and as few restrictions as possible," said Manitoba's Health Minister Audrey Gordon.
"Unvaccinated individuals will now be more restricted in their activities."
These new restrictions include:
- Limiting households to guests from one other household for private indoor gatherings when an unvaccinated person, who is eligible to be vaccinated, is on the property. This rule applies even if the unvaccinated person lives at this location;
- Limiting households to 10 guests outdoors when an unvaccinated person, who is eligible to be vaccinated, is on the property. This rule applies even if the unvaccinated person lives at this location;
- Limiting indoor public gatherings group sizes to 25 people or 25 per cent capacity, whichever is lower, for any gatherings that include unvaccinated people, who are eligible to be vaccinated. This applies to weddings and funerals;
- Reducing indoor group sizes for faith-based gatherings to 25 people or 33 per cent capacity, whichever is greater, for any gatherings that include unvaccinated people, who are eligible to be vaccinated;
- Limiting retail capacity to 50 per cent in the Southern Health Region; and
- Reducing outdoor public gatherings to 50 people. This rule applies to all gatherings. However, certain organized events for fully vaccinated people can get approval.
Dr. Brent Roussin, the chief provincial public health officer, said fully immunized residents and those under the age of 12 will be largely unaffected by the orders. He said they will be able to hold private (household), faith-based and indoor gatherings, as well as weddings, funerals and indoor recreation, without gathering limits.
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Roussin said case numbers, hospital and ICU admissions have been increasing – mostly among unvaccinated Manitobans.
"Our health-care system remains at risk from the Delta variant, and these COVID-19 case numbers and hospitalizations are rising," Roussin said.
"Today's announcements are a consequence of that reality."
Roussin said two thirds of all COVID-19 admissions to the ICU in the past week were first diagnosed with COVID-19 when they arrived at hospital.
He said in the Southern Health region, COVID-19 cases could double in less than three weeks if nothing changes, meaning the region could see 93 cases per day.
"That alone could place the province's hospital system at risk," Roussin said.
Dr. Perry Gray, the chief medical officer for Shared Health, said half of all COVID-19 patients in the ICU are from the Southern Health region.
"The vaccine has been an incredible addition to the health-care system. In fact, I consider it in the category of an incredible gift to all of us. And it is working," Gray said, adding the vaccine is surpassing his expectations.
He said the province is not seeing large numbers of fully vaccinated patients in hospital and ICU. As of Friday, there were 14 people with active cases in ICU – 12 had not been vaccinated and two had been partially vaccinated.
"Based on what I am seeing to date, if every eligible Manitoban was fully vaccinated, the impact on our health-care system would be no worse than a mild to moderate flu season," Gray said.
Roussin urged those who have not been immunized to book an appointment.
"If some of you are waiting until the proof of vaccine requirement is going to end, please consider the consequences of waiting," he said. "COVID is not going away. It is going to be with us for years, and you are much more likely to get sick from COVID – especially severe illness – if you are not vaccinated."