People in Winnipeg hoping to take out a library book or do some laps in the public pool will have more details about when city services will start to reopen next week.
The city is gradually rolling out its plan to start loosening COVID-19 restrictions, and says more details of how and when it will be able to reopen pools, libraries and other city spaces shut down during the pandemic by next Friday.
Jay Shaw, assistant chief of emergency management for the City of Winnipeg, made the announcement at a news conference with Mayor Brian Bowman on Friday.
Now that the cap on gatherings under a public health order has been expanded from 10 to 50 people outside, Shaw said the city will once again start accepting permit applications for street events and park bookings for groups under 50.
He said city officials will start by contacting people whose bookings for small groups were cancelled because of the pandemic to see if they still want their permits.
Winnipeg is amending its parks bylaw to allow groups of under 50 people to gather in city parks, Shaw said, though physical distancing rules will still apply. He said city staff will still be patrolling the spaces and giving out warnings and tickets for the foreseeable future.
The city is also extending temporary patio permits it granted to restaurants and microbreweries, which were allowed to open patio spaces earlier this month, until July 6. So far, 28 of those permits have been approved.
Allowing the temporary patios is one of the steps the city has taken to help businesses reopen, said Shaw.
“Our economy isn’t fully open yet, and we want to help. We want to be a part of the solution.”
City wants to ‘do it right the first time’
The city’s plans for its public spaces will include extra cleaning and other preventive measures to avoid reopening too quickly and having to close them again.
“We are embarking on a new normal, where the way we were before COVID-19 may never quite be the same again,” Shaw said.
“There’s always going to be kinks, there’s always going to be room for improvement, but we want to make sure that we’re balancing things out so that we do it right the first time.”
Although case numbers in Manitoba are low right now, the city’s plans will need to keep in mind the possibility of a COVID-19 resurgence, Bowman said.
“That’s something that I think everybody is starting to get a better appreciation for within governments that I’m speaking with, is the fact that we have to presume there will be additional waves.”
Bowman said the city is grateful the province released its draft plan for Phase 2 with more notice than when Phase 1 was unveiled just a few days before it came into effect.
The mayor said he was given a heads up the Phase 2 draft plan would be released the day before it came out.
“We’re obviously hoping that there’ll be an opportunity for meaningful input,” said Bowman. “We want to see things as co-ordinated as possible.”
The city’s reopening plan will not include sports field bookings yet, since the province has only included dates for a few aspects of its Phase 2 reopening plan — though that could change, Shaw said.
“We used to say there was changes hours to hours. There’s still daily changes in terms of what could potentially happen,” he said. “We need to take a safe, slow approach, and I think that’s what we’re doing.”
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