New public health orders in Manitoba will require people who travel anywhere outside the province — including within Canada — to self-isolate for 14 days when they return.
The orders, which come into effect on Friday, also restrict travel north of the 53rd parallel, chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin said Thursday.
People who are returning to their homes, delivering goods, providing services, going to work, accessing medical treatment and facilitating child custody agreements are exempt from the northern Manitoba travel order, he said.
There were four new cases of COVID-19 in Manitoba announced Thursday, which brings the total to 250. There are eight people in hospital, including four in intensive care, as the province deals with a deadly pandemic related to five deaths in Manitoba.
About 56 per cent of COVID-19 cases in Manitoba are directly related to international or domestic travel, Roussin said.
In Manitoba, 121 people have now recovered from the virus, Roussin said, leaving the number of active cases — patients who still have the coronavirus — at 124.
Although the number of new cases reported in the province in recent days has been relatively low, the new rules are required because it’s still early in the pandemic, he said.
“The ongoing risk is the reimportation of this virus, so we’re putting up measures to do what we can to limit the importation of the virus into our province,” he said.
The travel restrictions will help prevent the spread of the coronavirus to remote communities where it’s “quite risky,” he said.
“It’s subject to penalties if it’s not followed,” Roussin said, and checkpoints might be put in place to educate people travelling north.
The province announced penalties for violating public health orders last week, and Roussin said the same consequences — which include fines of up to $486 for individuals and $2,542 for businesses — could apply to people who break the new health orders.
The new orders are in effect until May 1.
WATCH | Dr. Brent Roussin talks about Manitoba’s new public health orders:
Self-isolation had previously been a recommendation for domestic travellers, but wasn’t mandated.
There continues to be a 50-kilometre “buffer zone” into northwestern Ontario, which means Manitobans who visit that part of the province won’t have to self-isolate after they return, though Roussin urged cottage owners to stay home.
“If you’re going to be going to the cottage, you need to really minimize your contact with anyone else. It should be not stopping at the gas station, not stopping at a local store, not having friends over,” he said.
The province is planning how some of the rules that have been put in place during the pandemic can eventually be lifted, but the next few weeks are critical, Roussin said.
The province also announced Thursday that COVID-19 testing criteria will be expanded to include all symptomatic workers or volunteers at workplaces that have been identified as essential services.
Testing will also be done on symptomatic people who live with a health-care worker, a first responder or a worker in any place where large groups of people stay, such as correctional facilities, shelters, long-term care homes or residential facilities.
“Certainly we’ve always been testing those at highest risk of having COVID and those at highest risk of having severe outcomes of COVID, but as we see our numbers of tests dwindling, now we’re going to expand access to lower-risk groups, trying to ensure we keep getting a good sampling of the population,” Roussin said.
The Cadham Provincial Lab performed 449 COVID-19 tests on Wednesday. A total of 18,349 tests have been performed in Manitoba since early February.
Roussin also made a number of clarifications to existing health orders on Thursday.
Farmers markets, garden centres and greenhouses are allowed to operate, if they can ensure physical distancing measures are in place.
Hotels can stay open, but their public spaces like pools, hot tubs and game rooms must be closed.
Campgrounds can accommodate RVs that serve as people’s homes.
However, appliance, electronic and furniture stores shouldn’t be open to the public, except where orders are placed remotely and delivered, or picked up with distancing measures in place.
Meanwhile, the availability of personal protective equipment like masks, gowns and gloves continues to be a concern for health-care workers, including home-care workers.
Shared Health chief nursing officer Lanette Siragusa says there are guidelines in place for who gets first priority.
“We do need to conserve our PPE and make sure that the people who need it have access to it,” she said.
She says she’s meeting daily with a logistics team co-ordinating the shipment of the protective equipment, and is assured it is being delivered.
“I do understand it’s been delivered, [but] maybe it just has to make it to the specific sites. So if it’s not there yet, it will be soon.”
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