Provincial spokespeople say its Safe at Home initiative is bringing a "ray of hope" to Manitobans.

An additional $2 million is being directed towards a program aimed to give Manitobans a reason to stay home. The Sport, Culture and Heritage Minister says the investment towards virtual cultural programming is paying off, finding high demand for the grants.

"This pandemic is far from over, which is why it is so important that we continue to offer ways for Manitobans to stay ‘safe at home," Minister Cathy Cox says. "We are proud to expand this innovative and creative initiative to offer over 300 virtual programs to run throughout the winter months to keep Manitobans busy, active, entertained and, most importantly, safe.”

Organizations and businesses can apply for a grant to offer free programming to Manitobans. Faith-based organizations can apply, but cannot use the grant to offer religious programming. The minister says once the latest expansion is over, organizations are welcome to continue their at-home programming on their own.

Cox is anticipating over 300,000 Manitobans will participate in the Safe at Home programming. She says she has seen programs across the province offer different programming for different groups of people of all ages.

"It really provides Manitobans on all four corners of the province the opportunity to really enjoy this made-in -Manitoba entertainment," she says.

Since December over 2,000 people have applied for the grant. Siloam Mission used this grant to create Boredom Busters, giving people newly-housed activities to do at home. Other groups have used this to put on virtual concerts, host cooking lessons, and other at-home interactive activities.

Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba's Chief Public Health Officer, says this program is helping Manitobans reduce their close contacts, as it is activities aimed to give people things to do while at home. 

"Certainly in the second wave we have seen a dramatic decline in the average cases per contact," Roussin says, noting that the average number of close contacts public health has been seeing in 2021 is between three to five people.

Along with the now $5-million program, the province is unveiling an ad campaign, featuring Roussin.

“The Safe at Home Manitoba programs provide the opportunity for Manitobans of all ages to stay active, healthy and engaged while protecting themselves, their loved ones and their community,” the doctor says.