Beginning Friday, Manitobans can once again dine in a restaurant, work out in a gym, get their nails done, worship together or play hockey outdoors — as long as pandemic protocols are followed.

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Beginning Friday, Manitobans can once again dine in a restaurant, work out in a gym, get their nails done, worship together or play hockey outdoors — as long as pandemic protocols are followed.

The provincial government’s "cautious" easing of restrictions follows weeks of lower COVID-19 case counts and a steady drop in the number of coronavirus patients in hospitals and intensive-care units.

New rules

As of 12:01 a.m. Friday, here is what’s allowed:

• Restaurants and licensed premises to reopen at 25 per cent capacity with patron groups limited to members of the same household only.

• Outdoor sport facilities to reopen for casual sports as well as organized practices and games, with multi-team tournaments not permitted.

• Gyms, fitness centres and yoga studios to reopen at 25 per cent capacity.

As of 12:01 a.m. Friday, here is what’s allowed:

• Restaurants and licensed premises to reopen at 25 per cent capacity with patron groups limited to members of the same household only.

• Outdoor sport facilities to reopen for casual sports as well as organized practices and games, with multi-team tournaments not permitted.

• Gyms, fitness centres and yoga studios to reopen at 25 per cent capacity.

• Indoor sporting facilities such as rinks, gymnastic clubs and martial arts studios to reopen at 25 per cent capacity for individual instruction only.

• Places of worship to hold regular religious services if they don’t exceed 10 per cent of normal capacity or 50 people, whichever is lower.

• Self-help groups for people dealing with addictions or other behaviours to hold meetings at 25 per cent capacity of the location where meetings take place.

• Museums, art galleries and libraries to operate at 25 per cent capacity.

• Personal service businesses, such as those that provide pedicures, electrolysis, cosmetic application, tanning, tattooing or massage services to reopen at 25 per cent capacity.

• Up to 10 people to attend a wedding in addition to the officiant and a photographer or videographer.

• Photographers and videographers to offer services to individual clients or those who live in the same household in addition to providing services at weddings, with the exception of visiting client homes.

• The film industry to operate fully with physical distancing and other safety measures in place.

In announcing the changes Tuesday, along with chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin, Premier Brian Pallister called it "a good day for Manitobans."

The new provincewide public-health order, set to take effect at 12:01 a.m. Friday, is virtually identical to a proposal floated by the Progressive Conservative government last week. It is scheduled to be in place for three weeks.

The government received more than 33,000 responses to a survey about the proposed changes on its EngageMB website, the premier said.

Two-thirds of respondents said they felt somewhat or very comfortable dining out, while 57 per cent said they were somewhat or very comfortable going to the gym or to a yoga studio.

"Understandably, some of you said, ‘whoa’ and some of you said, ‘Hurry up,’" Pallister said of the survey results, which will soon be posted.

"We are proceeding with caution. For those of you who say ‘go faster,’ remember that we can’t have a yo-yo here," the premier said, referring to the easing and toughening of restrictions.

The changes were announced on the same day it was learned that the dreaded U.K. coronavirus variant had officially arrived in Manitoba.

Roussin said if Manitobans follow public-health advice the new rules should not lead to an influx of new cases.

Dr. Brent Roussin said if Manitobans follow public-health advice the new rules should not lead to an influx of new cases.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Dr. Brent Roussin said if Manitobans follow public-health advice the new rules should not lead to an influx of new cases.

The province will continue to prohibit more than two designated people from visiting a private residence. And, only members of a particular household will be permitted to sit together in a restaurant, which cannot operate above 25 per cent capacity.

"We just can’t open everything at once," Roussin said. "If we get back to where we were in October, we’ll see November (case count) numbers."

The current five-day COVID-19 test positivity rate is 5.4 per cent in Manitoba and 4.3 per cent in Winnipeg; it has been below five per cent since Jan. 29.

The province reported 75 new cases Tuesday, including 51 in Winnipeg.

Manitoba also recorded three more deaths due to the virus, bringing the total to 853. The latest include a man in his 60s from the Prairie Mountain health region, a woman in her 60s from the Winnipeg health region and a woman in her 70s from the Winnipeg region.

Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont said he was "a little bit leery" about the easing of restrictions, given the arrival of the U.K. virus variant in Manitoba.

"If they’re going to open up, they need to be prepared to shut down pretty quickly (if cases soar)," he said.

Lamont said the province must also provide additional supports to business and non-profit organizations.

"The premier seems to think that if we just reopen everything at 25 per cent it’s going to get better," he said. "For a lot of people it’s not going to get better."

At his news conference, Pallister said the province is in the "advanced stages" of discussions with the business community about additional supports.

“We’ll be looking to focus on those sectors where companies are the most impacted by the closures and by the impacts of COVID.” – Premier Brian Pallister on additional business supports

"We’ll be looking to focus on those sectors where companies are the most impacted by the closures and by the impacts of COVID," he said, without providing more detail.

NDP Leader Wab Kinew said that for the easing of restrictions to be sustainable, the government must invest more money in health care.

"It doesn’t look like the government has learned that lesson yet and made the necessary investments in terms of training more nurses, training more nurses to work in intensive-care units and to otherwise staff-up our health-care system," Kinew said.

— with files from Danielle Da Silva

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

Larry Kusch

Larry Kusch
Legislature reporter

Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.

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