Manitoba imposes tighter COVID-19 restrictions in western region
Indoor and outdoor public gatherings in Prairie Mountain will be limited to 10 people
WNNIPEG — The Manitoba government is tightening COVID-19 restrictions in Brandon, Dauphin and other communities in the western part of the province because of rising case numbers and some people who are ignoring health guidelines.
“I’m hearing of many reports of large gatherings in parks, family gatherings, as well as religious gatherings,” Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief public health officer, said on Aug. 20.
The large gatherings, and community transmission of the novel coronavirus, are especially problematic in Brandon, Roussin said. But because people move between communities, the entire Prairie Mountain health region is being given Orange status under a new colour-based code announced by the province Wednesday. The rest of the province remains under the less-stringent Yellow.
Starting Aug. 24, indoor and outdoor public gatherings in Prairie Mountain will be limited to 10 people, with some exceptions that include religious gatherings. The rest of the province will continue to be allowed gatherings of up to 50 people indoors and 100 outdoors.
Masks will also be mandatory in the region for indoor public places and any public gatherings. In the rest of the province, masks remain a government recommendation when physical distancing is not possible, although some businesses require customers to wear them.
Brandon has seen its COVID-19 numbers spike in recent weeks. There were 100 active cases in the city of 50,000 as of Thursday, while Winnipeg, with more than ten times the population, had 74 active cases.
Dozens of the cases to date have been linked to the Maple Leaf Foods pork-processing plant in Brandon, although Roussin said there is no evidence the novel coronavirus was spreading inside the facility.
Many of the cases at the plant are connected to cases in the general community, Roussin has said.
Health officials alerted the public Aug.20 to two possible public exposures within the Prairie Mountain region. One was at a soccer field in Brandon on Aug. 8. The other was at Manipogo Provincial Park, northeast of Dauphin, on the same day.
The Opposition New Democrats said the government should have acted sooner.
“We know that the situation has been getting worse there for a while,” NDP Leader Wab Kinew said. “If it made sense to do it today, it made sense to put these precautions in place last week.”
The restrictions in the Prairie Mountain region will be in place for at least two weeks, Roussin said, and could last longer.
Manitoba has recorded 796 COVID-19 cases to date and 12 deaths. Thirty-three new cases were reported on Aug. 20, with more than half in the Prairie Mountain region.