Manitoba is clamping down on private gatherings and businesses selling non-essential items in an effort to slow the alarming rise in coronavirus infections in the province.
New COVID-19 public health orders will prohibit people from having anyone inside their home who doesn’t live there, with few exceptions, and businesses from selling non-essential items in stores.
Previous orders, which came into effect last week, allowed gatherings at private residences of up to five people beyond those who normally live there, although Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin and others pleaded with Manitobans to stay home and only go out for essential items.
“Despite that, we saw people gathering at rallies, we saw crowded parking lots at big-box stores, we saw people continue to go out for non-essential items,” Roussin said at a news conference Thursday.
“So we’re left with no choice but to announce further measures to protect Manitobans, to limit the spread of this virus.”
Exceptions to the no-visitors rule include visits between a child and a parent or guardian who does not normally live with that child, and people providing child care or other services deemed essential, such as education, construction or repairs, and deliveries.
People who live alone will also be allowed to have one designated person in their home as a visitor, and they can also visit that person.
Businesses that sell essential items such as food, medication, office supplies and major appliances will be required to remove any non-essential goods from the shelves or rope off those areas.
The new orders also further restrict capacity at large retailers to either 25 per cent of normal capacity or a maximum of 250 people, whichever is lower. Previous public health orders simply limited capacity at 25 per cent, without a hard cap on numbers.
The orders come into effect on Friday, except for the rule requiring businesses to prevent access to non-essential items; businesses must not sell non-essential goods starting Friday, but have until Saturday to remove them from shelves or rope off those areas of stores. Curbside pickup of non-essential items will still be allowed.
The restrictions will remain in effect until at least Dec. 11.
Premier Brian Pallister warned people against using the time before then to stock up on non-essential items.
“Don’t rush out to the stores … to take advantage of the opportunity to hurt yourself and others,” he said at the news conference.
Items deemed essential under the new orders include food, personal care and health products, baby and child-care items, outdoor winter clothing and pet supplies. Liquor and cannabis sales will also be permitted.
Non-essential items include books, toys, jewelry, flowers, perfume, consumer electronics and sporting equipment.
A list of essential and non-essential items is available on the provincial government’s website.
Violated ‘spirit’ of old orders
Under the earlier critical-level orders, only stores that sold essential items were allowed to remain open, but many of those businesses also sold non-essential items.
Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman called on the province to close that loophole and ban the sale of non-essential items.
The new restrictions on gatherings only apply to private residences. Existing orders limiting public gatherings outside the home to five people remain in effect, to allow for events such as weddings, funerals and baptisms to take place.
Businesses must provide proof that the capacity limits have not been exceeded if an enforcement official requests it, the province said.
Manitoba’s restrictions are the strongest in the country, but some people and businesses violated the “spirit” of the original orders, which made these stricter measures necessary, Pallister said.
“We all understand that the next few weeks are not going to be easy, but there is a reward waiting for us if we do the right things now,” Pallister said.
“The best thing we can do for our local businesses … to help them get back into business, is to beat COVID down.”
Businesses that violate the public health orders could be hit with a $5,000 fine.
When asked about businesses that might decide potential profits outweigh the risk of the fine, Pallister said those businesses could be shut down entirely.
“So don’t think you can profit in the short term at the expense of putting lives at risk,” he said.
These new orders come as the per capita daily COVID-19 case numbers in Manitoba remain the highest in Canada, despite the government moving the entire province to red, or critical — the highest level on the pandemic response system.
There were 475 new cases and eight more deaths announced on Thursday.
Conflict for cashiers
A representative of the Retail Council of Canada said although retailers understand what needs to be done, they are disappointed that Manitoba has reached the point of needing further restrictions on the few remaining stores that are allowed open.
“People are going to be working overtime to comply to these orders, and we hope that there is just some patience in getting there,” said John Graham, director of government relations for the council’s Prairie region.
Despite the efforts of stores to remove items or cordon off sections, Graham says customers in other jurisdictions with similar restrictions still try to buy items that they consider to be essential, but the orders do not.
That can lead to conflict for cashiers, who are placed in the position of deciding whether a customer can purchase an item, Graham said.
The further restrictions on capacity will also likely lead to longer lines at many stores, Graham said.
Doctors Manitoba, meanwhile, says it supports the restrictions.
“We know these restrictions are difficult. We know you want to be there for your family and friends. But the best way to support the ones you love is to stay home and stop the spread,” a statement from the professional association said.
Island Health COVID-19 cases fluctuate back to near record high – Nanaimo News NOW
There’s currently 267 active cases within Island Health, according to the BC CDC. Roughly two thirds of all Island Health cases remain in the central Vancouver Island area.
There is a slight discrepancy between the BC CDC and the Island Health dashboard regarding active cases, a difference of three.
The number of hospitalizations within Island Health doubled to 14, with five people receiving intensive care.
Dr. Henry said restrictions on essential travel to and from Island Health, with BC Ferries crews checking cars and travellers, aren’t on the horizon.
“It’s very much a challenge for workers at BC Ferries to take on that role and I don’t believe it’s their responsibility to,” she told reporters. “I think it is all our responsibility to each other about whether what we’re doing is for our own needs and recreation or whether we can postpone this travel.”
Dr. Henry announced 834 new COVID-19 cases across B.C.
Nearly 340 people are in hospital with 79 in ICU.
The number of new fatalities was in the double digits for the ninth day in a row, with 12 passing away in the last 24 hours.
Dr. Henry announced additional restrictions against indoor team sports, with further details expected in a published order.
She said these events are proving to be a source of COVID-19 transmission.
It’s hoped restrictions can ease for youth and children team sports with the implementation of stronger defenses against the virus.
On Twitter: @nanaimonewsnow
12 more lives lost to COVID-19 in B.C., as 834 new cases confirmed – CBC.ca
Another 12 people have died of COVID-19 in B.C. and 834 new cases have been confirmed, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced Wednesday.
There are now 8,941 active cases across the province, and the number of patients in hospital has risen to another new high of 337, including 79 in critical care.
Henry acknowledged that many British Columbians are feeling worn down by the pandemic and feeling fatigued by months of restrictions on daily life.
“COVID-19 is taking a toll on all of us,” she said. “I am asking you all to continue and do a little bit more.”
To date, there have been 34,728 confirmed cases of the disease in B.C., including 469 people who have died. A total of 10,201 people are currently in isolation because of contact with known cases of the virus.
Wednesday’s update included two new community outbreaks — one at the Cove Shelter in Surrey and another at Millennium Pacific Greenhouses.
There are also three new outbreaks in the health-care system, including two hospital outbreaks announced by Island Health on Tuesday. Currently, there are 54 active outbreaks in long-term care and assisted living and seven in hospitals.
Though case numbers remain highest in B.C.’s Lower Mainland, the pandemic has caught up to the rest of the province.
In the past three weeks, COVID-19 cases have stayed steady in Vancouver Coastal Health and doubled in Fraser Health — but they’ve gone up by nearly 500 per cent in the rest of B.C.
‘I’m asking you to stay home’
As B.C.’s caseload continues to grow and hospitalizations creep ever higher, Henry said everyone needs to stay within their local communities when it comes to sports and recreational travel.
“I cannot order you not to get into a car or get onto a plane, but I’m asking you to stay home,” she said.
Henry said she knows some sports teams have ignored her order against travelling, and that ended with an old timers’ hockey team in the Interior bringing back the virus from games in Alberta, resulting in dozens of cases in their local community.
Henry declined to identify the community, but said the returned players infected family members and co-workers. She also said that the situation is not unique in B.C.
All community events and social gatherings involving anyone outside someone’s immediate household remain banned as well.
The current orders restricting social interactions, recreational activities and events are set to expire on Dec. 7. Henry said health officials will be reviewing them and looking at the evidence right up until the deadline to determine if they need to continue.
However, she signalled that new restrictions on adult indoor team sports are on the way, describing those activities as high risk.
Despite the grim news on the pandemic coming out of every daily briefing on COVID-19, Henry pointed to the U.K.’s approval of the Pfizer vaccine as a sign of hope.
“This is, of course, very exciting news for all of us … but it’s going to be some time before we get there,” she said.
She added that while approved vaccines may arrive in Canada within weeks, in the meantime, B.C. continues to lose people to the disease every day and transmission is unchecked.
Asked about whether the vaccine should be mandatory, particularly for those who work in the health-care system, Henry said Canada has never had mandatory vaccinations and that isn’t going to change because of COVID-19.
However, she said that anyone thinking of working in health who doesn’t believe in vaccines or objects to immunizations should choose a different career.
She was also asked about recent demonstrations by those who believe COVID-19 is a hoax and say she is hiding the truth. Henry said that those people represent a small minority in B.C., but it does make her angry to hear those things.
“This is very real. Ask anyone who has lost a loved one how real it is,” she said.
Winnipeg testing site for first responders trying out rapid COVID-19 test – CBC.ca
A new Winnipeg testing site for first responders is collaborating with provincial scientists to gather data on the accuracy of a recently-approved rapid test for COVID-19.
“We’re excited that this has gone through its first week,” said Jay Shaw, assistant chief of emergency management for the City of Winnipeg, on Wednesday.
“It’s a really good program and it’s going to make a difference.”
The city opened its dedicated first-responder testing site at the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service academy on Nov. 20. The site is staffed by licensed paramedics who aren’t working in the field, and completed 93 COVID-19 tests on municipal and provincial first responders in its first week.
In addition to traditional nasopharyngeal swab tests, people who get tested at the site will be given a test using the Abbott Laboratories ID NOW rapid response testing device. The rapid test was approved by Health Canada in September.
People will receive results based on the traditional test, Shaw said. But results from the rapid test will be compared to the traditional ones, to help scientists at Cadham Provincial Laboratory determine its accuracy as part of a validity study.
Shaw said nearly everyone tested at that site will receive both tests, unless they aren’t eligible for the rapid test based on certain eligibility criteria.
“The validity of that test is very strong in terms of the positive result, but not so much on the negative, and that’s why we’re working with the province of Manitoba to do some studying,” Shaw said.
The testing device is a “great machine, has a lot of great purposes for the right use,” he said.
“[We’re] very happy to work with the province on this, and very happy to work with our paramedics and our team to be able to make sure that we have this service so that we can get quick testing for all of our responders, so we can keep our continuity going.”
Extra WFPS funding for counselling proposed
Like many other departments, the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service has seen increased absenteeism and overtime since the pandemic started, officials said Tuesday.
“That’s one of the reasons why we initiated dialogue with federal and provincial officials about the first-responder testing site,” Mayor Brian Bowman said at the news conference.
“It’s to minimize the amount of time that our first responders need to be in line if they need to get a test. It also frees up some space for the rest of us if we need to get a test.”
The city also proposed an extra $250,000 for counselling and other supports to first responders in its preliminary 2021 budget update Wednesday.
The additional funding, if approved, would go toward helping front-line members of the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service cope with the added trauma and stress of the pandemic.
“Trauma psychologically hurts and injures, and this investment will support emotional health services for WFPS members during this difficult time,” said Coun. Sherri Rollins (Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry), who chairs the city’s protection, community services and parks committee, in a written release Wednesday.
“The stress of working in the WFPS goes beyond battling fires and attending medical calls. Seriously distressing issues like abuse, car accidents and suicides take an emotional toll, causing trauma and real injury to our members.”
The proposal comes in addition to other suggested funding that would see the WFPS operating budget increase by six per cent over three years, rising from $204.3 million in 2020 to $216.9 million in 2023.
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