Looser COVID-19 rules mean more activity, but there may be some confusion

By | May 3, 2020

WINNIPEG — People in some provinces will enjoy more freedom Monday as restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic are loosened. But the change appears set to leave some workers looking for child care, some employers looking for workers, and many people trying to figure out a new regimen for going about their daily routine.

Manitoba is allowing many non-essential businesses, restaurant patios, museums, campgrounds and other facilities to reopen in one of the more aggressive restart-the-economy plans. At all venues, there will be rules in place to limit crowd gatherings and keep things sanitary in order to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Businesses that had been forced to close because of the pandemic learned last Wednesday, with just a few days notice, that they will be allowed to open at reduced capacity and with strict requirements for physical distancing between customers, hand sanitizer dispensers and more.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business said some of its members are worried their employees may not come back right away for a variety of reasons, such as fear of catching COVID-19 or because they cannot find child care with Manitoba’s schools still closed.

“There’s definitely going to be quite a few staff that are staying home and employers that are going to be having staff shortages,” Jonathan Alward, the federation’s director in Manitoba, said.

Some hair salons have said they will not open immediately because they need time to acquire enough hand sanitizer, masks and other gear. A small clothing boutique posted on social media that it was scrambling to find a way to ensure customer and worker safety in the narrow floor space.

There are also new rules at Manitoba campgrounds opening this week. One is that campers can use washrooms and outhouses, but they’ll have to bring their own toilet paper from home.

Manitoba’s conservation and climate minister, Sarah Guillemard, said there will be signage at park entrances to remind people of the rules, which also include 10-person limits on gatherings and a requirement to fill up at gas stations close to home instead of near the camp site.

“Social media will also be updated to help remind people, before they leave their home community, what they would do to prepare to go and enjoy the great outdoors,” Guillemard said Friday.

Alberta started allowing golf courses to reopen on the weekend, and has told dentists, physiotherapists and other medical professionals they can start operating again Monday. Non-essential retail stores will begin to open May 14.

The Saskatchewan government is allowing dentists, optometrists and other medical providers to restart Monday, and is also opening fishing shoreline areas and boat launches.

Quebec is letting retail stores outside the Montreal area reopen Monday. Those in the Montreal area will have the right to operate a week later.

Ontario announced Friday that it would allow some largely outdoor-based businesses and workplaces to open up starting Monday, though with certain restrictions in place.

The province’s reopening list includes garden centres for curbside pickup, lawn care and landscaping companies, auto dealerships by appointment, automatic and self-serve car washes, and a broad list of essential construction projects. Golf courses and marinas will be allowed to start to prep for the season, but not yet open to the public.

Back in Manitoba, restaurant patios will also be allowed to operate as of Monday, although at reduced capacity.

The province’s chief public health officer said the aim of the province’s reopening plan is not just about the economy — it’s also about letting people resume parts of their normal lives and connect with others while still protecting them from the spread of COVID-19.

“We need to still be cautious about this virus, but at the same time, we realize we have to start reopening things,” Dr. Brent Roussin said at his daily briefing Friday.

“This virus isn’t the only thing that affects people’s health.”

— With files from Ian Bickis.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on May 3, 2020

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