Gatherings will be restricted to a maximum of 10 people in Manitoba due to the COVID-19 pandemic, down from 50, starting on Monday, chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin announced Friday morning.
The restriction applies to indoor and outdoor premises, family gatherings, places of worship and events such as weddings and funerals, Roussin said.
The change does not apply to places where social services and/or health care are provided, homeless shelters, or workplaces. But, Roussin said workplaces should ensure physical distancing measures are in place, that employees can wash their hands frequently, and that employees can work from home when possible.
Retail businesses, including grocery stores, will also need to continue to ensure customers are one to two metres apart at all times, Roussin said. This was previously recommended, but starting Monday, it will be compulsory under the Public Health Act, Roussin said.
Community transmission is “inevitable” in Manitoba, but reducing the maximum gathering size will mitigate that, he said.
“This is just one tool available to us to heighten that sense of urgency.”
WATCH | Dr. Brent Roussin explains why the province is further limiting group sizes:
A report from the Public Health Agency of Canada found that as of Tuesday, more than half of the COVID-19 cases in Canada were caused by community transmission.
Of the 1,352 cases that the Public Health Agency of Canada had provided epidemiological data on up to that point, 53 per cent were a result of infection from community transmission, while 44 per cent were tied to travellers and people who came into close contact with a traveller who tested positive.
Roussin said Manitoba has been ahead of the game in implementing physical distancing strategies such as closing schools and limiting public gatherings. He pointed out that in some other jurisdictions, those measures weren’t taken until there was evidence of sustained community transmission of COVID-19.
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The announcement comes the same day Roussin announced the first death of a Manitoban from COVID-19: a woman in her 60s who was in intensive care.
Three additional probable cases of the coronavirus were also announced Friday, bringing the total number of lab-confirmed positive and probable cases in Manitoba to 39.
Public health investigations are underway to determine more details and which other people may have been exposed.
Health inspectors ensuring compliance
In “extreme cases,” the 10-person rule can be enforced under provincial law, Roussin said. Thus far, public health inspectors have been in businesses to ensure they’re complying with physical distancing rules enacted by the province, he said.
Roussin also said the province is considering using peace officers to enforce these rules.
Still, the new limitations on public gatherings are not about collecting fines, Roussin said.
“This is about Manitobans realizing that now is the time for action,” he said.
“We know a lot of people are going through some rough times because of this, but it’s for the health of all Manitobans.”
WATCH | Full news conference on COVID-19 | March 27, 2020:
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