Last-minute change to gathering restrictions as Manitoba moves to code red

WINNIPEG — Province-wide restrictions took effect in Manitoba at 12:01 a.m. Thursday as Manitoba moved to the red, critical level on the province’s pandemic response system, but with a last-minute change to arguably one of the most limiting restrictions announced earlier in the week. A change that was quick to come under fire by the province’s official opposition.

Wednesday night, the health order stated that under code red, the maximum size of gatherings in the province will be five people.

“This applies to ceremonies such as weddings and funerals and social events like banquets and receptions, as well as informal gatherings such as dinners and house parties,” the health order read.

The wording differed from restrictions announced earlier in the week, which said social contacts would need to be limited to members of each household and social gatherings would not be permitted.

Wab Kinew, leader of the opposition NDP, was quick to respond Wednesday night, saying in a statement, the province is facing its most critical point in the fight against COVID 19.

“The same day that 9 Manitobans succumbed to COVID 19, and only hours before important new lockdown measures were set to come into effect, Manitobans have learned with no warning these restrictions have been weakened and watered down. There has been no explanation from the Premier or the Health Minister for these last minute and significant changes. The statements made by the Chief Public Health Officer yesterday were clear: the protection of public health demanded serious, decisive action including limiting group size to households only. The last minute undermining of Manitoba’s top doctor’s orders could only have been made by the Premier or Health Minister. This is a serious threat to our ability to fight COVID 19 in the province and will only cause confusion and doubt regarding public health measures. It requires immediate explanation and, more importantly, reinstatement. Premier Pallister needs to stop interfering in public health orders and needs to listen and follow the advice of front line health care workers and leaders like Dr. Roussin today,” the full statement read.

A spokesperson for Premier Brian Pallister did not respond to a request for comment late Wednesday night. But a spokesperson for Cameron Friesen, provincial minister of heath, referred CTV News to tweets made by Dr. Brent Roussin Wednesday night, one of which read:

“Manitobans don’t need a law to do what is right – restrict your social interactions to your household. Not because you’ll be fined, but because it’s the right thing to do to fight #Covid19MB”.

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