Vaccinated Manitobans get extra freedoms as province starts to reopen after hitting immunization targets

Manitobans can visit their hair salons and gyms starting on Saturday for the first time in more than a month — and fully vaccinated residents can start to enjoy new freedoms — thanks to vaccination targets being met earlier than expected. 

Earlier this month, the province laid out vaccination goals for reopening by certain dates. Initially, the aim was 70 per cent of eligible Manitobans with one dose and 25 per cent with two by July but the province surpassed those benchmarks earlier this week.

“This is a good news day for Manitobans,” said Premier Brian Pallister at a news conference with Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin on Wednesday. “After a year and a half of fighting COVID-19, it’s time for Manitobans to get some of their freedoms back and enjoy this beautiful summer.”

Many businesses were forced to shutter in early May when Manitoba was hit late but hard by the third wave of the pandemic, overwhelming hospitals and forcing them to fly dozens of critically ill patients to other provinces for care.

For the first time in nearly seven weeks, hair salons, fitness centres, swimming pools and restaurants can reopen this Saturday, while numerous indoor and outdoor activities can also resume. 

“It’s been a lot of sacrifice over these last number of months and that sacrifice has led us to be able to do what we’re announcing today,” said Roussin.

“There’s been a lot of missed celebrations, milestones and making of memories due to to restrictions over the last several weeks. But today is that ray of hope.”

WATCH | Manitoba premier announces 1st stage of reopening, 5 days ahead of schedule:

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister announced Wednesday the province will proceed with its first stage of reopening starting Saturday, June 26. The original target had been to roll back some pandemic restrictions by July 1, but Pallister said the plan will proceed sooner because the province hit its vaccination target early. 1:06

Freedoms for fully vaccinated residents

Meanwhile, the reopening plan also laid out a number of increased freedoms for fully vaccinated people.

Fully vaccinated residents will be able to dine indoors with members of different households and visit loved ones in personal care homes and hospitals. They will also be able to attend large-scale outdoor sporting and performing arts events that are approved by Manitoba Public Health.

The provincial government said it will work with sports and arts organizations on ways to determine people’s vaccination status.

Residents of personal care homes and congregate living facilities who are fully vaccinated will be able to participate in social or communal activities. 

The province already announced earlier this month that Manitobans who are fully vaccinated can travel within Canada without having to self-isolate when they return.

Asked by a reporter whether it would be safe for fully vaccinated people attending an outdoor gathering to hug each other, Roussin said there is nothing in the public health orders preventing that.

“You’re outdoors, you’re with fully vaccinated people — and we would ensure that none of those fully vaccinated people are symptomatic — but yes, this is a lower-risk situation.”

Roussin said Manitoba officials are working with their national counterparts to come up with specific guidance on those types of scenarios.

Daily COVID-19 cases have fallen to their lowest levels in months. On Tuesday, the province reported 69 new COVID-19 cases, the lowest it has been since April 4, although the case count on Wednesday rose to 123.

As of Tuesday, 71.4 per cent of Manitobans 12 and older have had a first dose and 26.9 per cent have two doses.

“For the past few months we’ve been in a race between vaccines and variants, and the variants have been winning,” said Pallister. 

“But thanks to the efforts of Manitobans, to roll up their sleeves not once but twice, the vaccines are starting to win and they’re beating back that third wave.”

WATCH | Dr. Brent Roussin on how the delta variant figured into Manitoba’s reopening plan:

Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief public health officer, said Wednesday the province has placed emphasis on the percentage of Manitobans who have their second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, in part as a consideration of the potential impact of the delta variant of the coronavirus on the province. 0:50

The next target date in the province’s reopening plan is the Terry Fox Day long weekend in August, when it aims to have at least 75 per cent of eligible people immunized with a first dose and 50 per cent with a second dose. It it reaches that goal, capacity limits on businesses are expected to increase to 50 per cent.

Outside gatherings bigger

Many other changes are coming for all Manitobans this Saturday as the province begins to reopen.

The outdoor gathering size on private property doubles to 10 people, and the outdoor gathering size in public spaces increases to 25.

Hair salons can open at 50 per cent capacity though only by appointment. 

Recreation activities, sports, dance, music and theatre classes can reopen indoors at 25 per cent capacity, with up to five people. Outdoor activities and classes can reopen with up to 25 people. No tournaments are allowed. 

Capacity limits for retail businesses already open will rise to 25 per cent, up to 250 people, with no restrictions on the number of household members allowed to shop together. 

Restaurants and bars can open at 25 per cent capacity indoors and 50 per cent capacity outdoors. People from different households can dine together indoors, but only if they are all fully immunized. 

Outdoor dining is limited to eight people per table, but they can be from different households regardless of vaccination status.

Faith-based services and community gatherings such as powwows can resume indoors at 25 per cent capacity, up to a maximum of 25 people, with masks worn at all times. Outdoor services can resume with up to 50 people, as long as there is distance between households. 

The capacity limit for outdoor weddings and funerals increases to 25 participants, in addition to a photographer and officiants. Indoor weddings and funerals remain capped at 10 people.

Summer day camps can have up to 20 people in groups. 

WATCH | Manitoba government daily briefing on coronavirus: June 23:

Provincial officials give update on COVID-19 outbreak: Wednesday, June 23, 2021. 43:35

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