On October 30 the government of Manitoba announced province-wide changes to its #RestartMB Pandemic Response System in response to the surge of confirmed COVID-19 cases and the increasing test positivity rate.
Notably, such changes moved the Winnipeg Metro Region into the critical (red) level, and the Southern Health–Santé Sud, Prairie Mountain Health and Interlake–Eastern Health regions into the restricted (orange) level.
UPDATE: On November 10, the province announced that all health regions in Manitoba will be moving to the critical (red) level effective 12:01 a.m. on Thursday, November 12. Dr. Roussin indicated that the new measures will be in effect for four weeks, which represents two incubation periods.
Subject to new public health orders to be ultimately issued, the following heightened public health measures will be implemented province-wide:
- reducing social contacts to household members only;
- prohibiting all social gatherings;
- restricting travel to and from northern Manitoba and discouraging non-essential travel;
- closing non-critical retail businesses, though they can continue to provide e-service, curbside pickup or delivery services. A list of example critical services is set out below;
- closing all restaurants to the public, though they may be open for delivery, drive-thru or takeout;
- closing all recreational activities, sports facilities, casinos, museums, galleries, libraries, movie theatres and concert halls;
- closing all personal service businesses, including hair salons, barbers and sites offering manicures, pedicures and other esthetic services;
- closing all gyms and fitness centres;
- closing all religious and cultural gatherings, only virtual services are permitted;
- limiting gathering sizes for weddings and funerals to five people, plus an officiant, all socially distanced; and
- ceasing all film production.
Retail businesses listed as critical services, such as grocery stores and pharmacies, will be permitted to remain open at 25% capacity. Examples of critical services include businesses related to:
- maintaining supply chains;
- providing retail and wholesale services including:
- food or household consumer goods necessary for the safety, sanitation or operation of residences and businesses, such as grocery stores, supermarkets, convenience stores, butcher shops, bakeries, markets and hardware stores;
- providing personal protective equipment or protective clothing for use in the workplace;
- providing essential goods and services for the health and well-being of animals;
- gas stations and fuel companies;
- office supply and service;
- computer products and related repair and maintenance services;
- businesses that hold a retail liquor licence, a manufacturer's licence or a retail cannabis licence;
- providing accommodations;
- providing institutional, residential, commercial and industrial maintenance;
- supporting telecommunications and information technology;
- providing transportation services;
- manufacturing and production;
- supporting agriculture and food production services;
- finance, including banks, credit unions and other financial services;
- natural resources services;
- environmental services;
- utilities and public works;
- health-care seniors care and social services; and
- legal services and regulatory services.
There are no changes to child-care services or to the delivery of Kindergarten to Grade 12 education at this time. Further, for therapeutic care, regulated professions and massage therapists can continue to provide services.
Where non-urgent and elective surgeries and/or procedures may be impacted, patients will be contacted directly if their scheduled appointments or procedures are affected. Patients who are not contacted should show up to their appointments as scheduled.
In-patient visitation to hospitals or health centres will be suspended, with exceptions made on a case-by-case basis. 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.
Effective Monday, November 9, the Southern Health-Santé Sud health region moved to the critical (red) level. The new public health measures for this region are the same as those that were implemented in the Winnipeg Metro Region on November 2.
On November 6, the province also extended the state of emergency to December 6.
On November 5, and after public consultation, the Premier of Manitoba announced that the province would not be implementing a curfew at this time. Premier Pallister further announced expanded measures for the enforcement of public health orders.
Critical (Red) Level (until November 12)
New public health orders were issued for the City of Winnipeg and surrounding areas, and the Southern Health-Santé Sud health region, on November 6 (the "Capital Region and Southern Health Region Orders"), which can be accessed here. The Capital Region Orders issued on November 1 were terminated and replaced with the Capital Region and Southern Health Region Orders issued on November 6. Effective 12:01 a.m. on Monday, November 9 the City of Winnipeg and surrounding areas, and the Southern Health-Santé Sud health region, are in the critical (red) level of the province's pandemic response system, and will remain in the critical (red) level until 12:01 a.m. on November 23, subject to further extension and new public health orders.
In addition to the above noted changes, employers, including the public service, are encouraged to have employees work from home wherever possible.
The following measures remain unchanged while the Winnipeg Metro and Southern Health-Santé Sud health regions are in the critical (red) level:
- public and private group gathering sizes remain at five, however, the province has indicated that limiting contacts from outside one's household is strongly encouraged;
- no changes for grocery stores and pharmacies, which may continue to operate at 50% capacity;
- no changes for schools: blended learning for grades 9 to 12, voluntary blended learning temporarily available for kindergarten to grade 8, and encouraging as much physical distancing as possible;
- casinos remain closed; and
- no change for personal services and maintaining 50% capacity remains.
Certain communities across the province, such as Cross Lake First Nation, Peguis First Nation, and Little Grand Rapids First Nation, also moved to the critical (red) level over the past month.
Restricted (Orange) Level (until November 12)
New public health orders were issued for all regions outside of the Winnipeg Metro and Southern Health-Santé Sud health regions on November 6 (the "Updated General Orders"), which terminated and replaced the General Orders issued on November 1, and can be accessed here. The Updated General Orders apply to the Northern, Prairie Mountain and Interlake–Eastern health regions, which continue to be in the restricted (orange) level since November 2, and will remain in the restricted (orange) level until 12:01 a.m. on November 16, subject to extension and further public health orders.
The province of Manitoba strongly encourages Manitobans to reduce their close contacts by 75% for the month of November. Further, in the Winnipeg Metro and Southern Health-Santé Sud health regions, where an individual with symptoms of COVID-19 is required to self-isolate, all members of that individual's household must also self-isolate pending results of the COVID-19 testing. Further, any individual self-isolating in a household with more than one household member must self-isolate away from all members of that household to the greatest extent possible, for instance by staying in their own room and using their own bathroom. On November 2, Dr. Roussin indicated his understanding that this expanded self-isolation measure could result in greater absenteeism in workplaces in the interim.
Individuals and employers need to take necessary steps to ensure compliance with orders made under The Public Health Act and The Emergency Measures Act. The province made amendments to the Preset Fines and Offence Descriptions Regulation (PFODR) under The Provincial Offences Act to allow enforcement officers to issue tickets with set fines for failure to comply with the emergency orders. Effective October 21, total fine amounts were increased to $1,296 for tickets issued to individuals, including sole proprietorships and partnerships, and $5,000 for tickets issued to corporations.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.