Manitoba adds public health enforcers as Quebec resists calls to loosen rules
COVID-19 restrictions continue across Canada
By Lauren Krugel
Manitoba enlisted more help Thursday to enforce COVID-19 restrictions, while Quebec’s premier resisted calls to relax measures in Montreal, and Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia reported their highest number of cases in one day since the pandemic began.
Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister said that 277 more personnel, including fire safety inspectors, motor carrier enforcement officers and municipal bylaw officers will help make sure public health orders are followed. That brings the total number of enforcers to more than 3,000.
He dropped the idea of a curfew to limit late-night socializing, but said the province needs to do more than just offer “soft advice.”
“I know that stern warnings are not enough.”
Manitoba is also setting up a dedicated tip line and rolling out an ad campaign that shows the heart-wrenching consequences of young people being cavalier with the rules.
A spike in COVID-19 cases in the province, which for a time last summer had almost no new cases at all, led to the crackdown, which includes a limit of five people at public gatherings.
The province reported a five-day test positivity rate of almost nine per cent along with 426 new cases and four more deaths.
Saskatchewan has also seen a recent surge and hit a record 129 new infections on Thursday, one day before masks were to become mandatory in indoor public places in its three biggest cities.
“Much of the recent transmission has occurred within the home, either between household members or those who may be visiting,” Premier Scott Moe said on Twitter.
“In fact, this may be one of the places where we are most vulnerable, because we may relax our good practices when we are around people we know.”
British Columbia reached a record daily COVID-19 high of 425 new cases.
And Alberta reported about 800 new infections. It did not have an exact number because of technical problems with its data, but the range given was well over its previous one-day record of 622.
“Unless our numbers decline dramatically in the next few days, we will have to consider additional measures,” said Alberta’s chief medical health officer, Dr. Deena Hinshaw.
Meanwhile, Quebec’s opposition parties demanded the government release a document from Montreal’s health authority, obtained by Radio-Canada, that calls for gyms, museums, and libraries to reopen. It said the partial lockdown poses serious health risks.
Health Minister Christian Dube said in the legislature that the document is not a list of recommendations, but part of an ongoing discussion and that the opposition is sowing confusion.
Premier Francois Legault said the restrictions are staying in place for now because the risk of gatherings is too great when just one person can be responsible for several infections.
“We must stay careful. The battle is not won,” he said.
“What we’re trying to do is to find a balance between saving lives and our quality of life. This balance is not an exact science. There’s judgment involved.”
Legault acknowledged that there is a toll on mental health.
Currently, people who live alone are allowed to receive one visitor at a time. The premier said it’s possible two-people meetings could be allowed for everyone.
Most of Quebec has been moved to the highest pandemic-alert level, under which gyms, bars, restaurant dining rooms and entertainment venues are closed and private gatherings are banned.
Quebec reported 1,138 new infections and 28 deaths, 10 of which occurred in the last day.
Ontario had 998 new cases of the novel coronavirus in its latest update, along with 13 fatalities.