Long lineups at Winnipeg retail stores ahead of level red restrictions coming Wednesday

Retail history may be repeating itself. As Manitoba prepares to enter a lockdown similar to that of the early days of the pandemic, shoppers are rushing the stores for supplies.

Ever-rising COVID-19 cases have forced the provincial government to put the entire province on level red, or critical, restrictions in Manitoba’s pandemic response system. The move puts Manitobans under a lockdown similar to that of the spring.

Hundreds of shoppers waited outside stores like the Walmart in Winnipeg’s Garden City area and the Costco in St. James on Wednesday afternoon. The lineups at those particular stores wrapped around the corners of each building.

“I just wanted to come in early and get my stuff [ahead of Thursday],” said Kwabena Kesseh, a Walmart shopper.

“Surprisingly, everybody’s thinking like I’m thinking. So there’s a long queue and it’s very busy.”

The shelves at the Walmart in Garden City were well stocked, and Kesseh said he didn’t notice long lines for the self-checkout.

Kwabena Kessex anticipated larger crowds and longer lineups on Thursday when level red COVID-19 restrictions hit the entire province. He was surprised were shopping today like he was. (Lyzaville Sale/CBC)

Robert Lippai, another Walmart shopper, noticed “a lot of grumpy” shoppers inside the store, but customers were following the marks on the floor that direct traffic to ensure COVID-19 protocols are followed.

When the pandemic first hit Manitoba, many shoppers piled up on toilet paper. On Wednesday, Lippai didn’t see people panic-buying toilet paper, but many were stockpiling milk, he said.

“I see that some carts have 20 jugs of milk, which I’ve never seen before,” he said.

Lippai and his partner, Izabela Milan, have a small freezer and tend to buy food the day they consume it. So the couple picked up enough food to last about three days, Lippai said.

A single-day record nine people died from COVID-19, the provincial government announced Wednesday, and another 431 cases of COVID-19 were announced in Manitoba.

The total number of COVID-19 cases listed as active in the province is now 5,676. The five-day test positivity rate in Manitoba is 10.7 per cent.

The line up at Costco in St. James, shown here, wrapped around to the back of the building Wednesday. Fortunately, it was moving quickly for shoppers. (Rudy Gauer/CBC)

With a strained health care system, the provincial government is putting all of Manitoba under level red restrictions in place to curb the ever rising number of COVID-19 cases in Manitoba.

The new restrictions mean gyms will have to close, while faith-based gatherings will be banned. Non-essential retail stores will have to close their doors to the public, but can deliver or arrange curbside pickup. Restaurants cannot offer dine-in service, but can remain open for delivery and take out.

Retail stores considered essential can stay open at 25 per cent capacity. Businesses that are key to industries deemed critical, including agriculture and construction, can continue operating too.

Regulated health professions such as massage therapy, physiotherapy and chiropractic can remain operational.

Kindergarten to Grade 12 schools, as well as child-care centres, will remain open.

The level red restrictions will be in place for at least two weeks, but likely four weeks, said Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief provincial public health officer.

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