Manitoba prolongs COVID-19 restrictions, eyes crackdown in shopping centres
By Steve Lambert
WINNIPEG — Manitoba is extending its COVID-19 restrictions for another two weeks as hospital capacity remains pushed near the limit.
The government is also planning a new crack down on shopping malls and some workplaces.
“Our health-care system is under great strain,” chief public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin said Thursday.
“Our (intensive care) numbers, our hospitalization numbers are extremely high and still expected to climb.”
A ban on social gatherings, both indoors and out, that was due to expire Saturday will now run until June 12. There remains a small exemption for people who live alone, who are permitted to meet with one other person.
A rule that requires only one person per household to enter a store or other public-facing business is also being extended to June 12.
Public schools in Winnipeg, Brandon and some other areas that were switched to remote learning earlier this month will have to continue until the week of June 7.
Stores and shopping centres can remain open at 10 per cent capacity. But after hearing reports of people meeting up at malls for social purposes, the province is giving marching orders to security staff.
“These malls are directed to evict people who are gathering with others,” Roussin said.
Roussin also promised a new, more-targeted approach to employers that will see specific workplaces forced to close when transmission of the virus occurs.
The announcement came as health officials reported eight deaths — the highest one-day total in the third wave of the pandemic — and 297 new cases.
Manitoba has seen the highest per-capita rate of new infections in Canada in recent weeks, and has started shipping some intensive care patients to other provinces to free up beds.
Ontario has taken 26 patients and Saskatchewan was to start accepting a small number starting Thursday.
One patient who was being transported to Ontario this week destabilized before takeoff, was brought back to a health care facility and died the following day, health officials said.
The government would not name the patient but a group that represents First Nations in southern Manitoba said she was Krystal Mousseau, a 31-year-old mother of two from the Ebb and Flow First Nation.
“Krystal’s death is one more tragic life taken by a pandemic that has impacted First Nations citizens and communities disproportionately,” Grand Chief Jerry Daniels of the Southern Chiefs Organization said in a press release.
Premier Brian Pallister urged people to get vaccinated and follow the public health orders.
He also defended his government’s decision to not order a full shutdown of non-essential businesses at the start of the third wave.
“There’s another factor: that’s the willingness of people to follow the rules. That’s a key determinant in the model that public health uses to ascertain what is effective and what is not,” the premier said.
“How do you imagine the public would have been affected by introducing public health rules — when we had fewer than a hundred cases — that restricted all non-essential retail? Do you think we would have got buy-in from the public?”