Manitoba Closes Stores and Churches, Bans Social Gatherings as COVID 19 Cases Surge

Manitoba Closes Stores and Churches, Bans Social Gatherings as COVID 19 Cases Surge
Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba chief public health officer, speaks during the province's latest COVID-19 update at the Manitoba legislature in Winnipeg on Oct. 30, 2020. (The Canadian Press/John Woods)
The Canadian Press

WINNIPEG—The Manitoba government is bringing in widespread restrictions across the province in an effort to stop a surge of COVID-19 cases.

Starting Thursday, non-essential retail outlets will be limited to curbside pickup and delivery, churches will not be allowed to hold in-person services, and people will be forbidden from social gatherings with anyone from outside their household.

Bars, restaurants, museums and theatres will close and recreational activities will be suspended. The restrictions are expected to be in place for four weeks and are to be reviewed as case numbers change.

"We need to flatten our COVID curve and we need to do that now," Premier Brian Pallister said Tuesday.

There has been a surge of cases in Manitoba since a summer lull when, at one point in July, there was only one known active case.

There have since been outbreaks in long-term care homes and hospitals and widespread community transmission of the novel coronavirus. Intensive care beds, including those occupied by non-COVID-patients, are running close to capacity.

Manitoba currently leads all other provinces in per-capita active cases.

Chief public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin said the province no longer has the ability to reduce case numbers by targeting specific areas such as bars and restaurants.

"Our test positivity rate is up. We're seeing a lot of community-based transmission, so now ... we just have to reduce contacts, period," Roussin said.

Among the few things not being shut down are schools. The current approach, which involves a mix of in-class and remote learning in many areas, is to continue because there has not been much transmission of the virus inside schools.

Pallister also announced new supports for businesses, non-profit groups and cultural organizations such as museums affected by the restrictions.

The help includes an upfront payment of $5,000, followed by another in January if restrictions remain in place. Pallister also committed $50 million to a longer-term support program in the new year to help economic recovery.

By Steve Lambert