Public Health officials are considering ways to reopen the province and are reaching out to residents for their feedback.
Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba's Chief Public Health Officer, says the current Level Red restrictions may have saved 1,700 lives. Now, the province is looking at slowly reopening the province following the success.
"We truly are looking for feedback from Manitobans but Manitobans can expect a very cautious approach going forward," the doctor says.
The province is seeking feedback from Manitobans on:
- retail shopping
- barbershops and salons
- gyms and fitness centres
- non-regulated health professions
- faith-based and ceremonial gatherings
- organized recreation and sport
- possible increases to indoor, outdoor and household gathering sizes
The new survey is looking to see what Manitobans want to gradually reopen. Roussin is cautioning Manitobans that this is not a return to pre-pandemic normals.
"We are going to be very cautious on our approach, and very slow on our approach watching these numbers because we see that transmission around us," Roussin says.
Pallister says over 304,000 Manitobans have engaged with the province on the health orders. He hopes early next week they will have a plan to share for the new Public Health Orders. At that time, the province will announce its tentative plan, giving space for Manitobans to share their opinions before they are enacted.
The current orders are set to expire on January 22.
Roussin says restrictions in northern Manitoba may need to stay due to the number of cases in the area, but it is too soon to decide.
"We are not out of the woods and have a long way to go before we get to a pre-COVID level," Roussin says.
The doctor says that Manitobans need to continue to do their part to follow the fundamentals and orders so more reopenings can occur.
Premier Brian Pallister says the willingness of Manitobans to follow the orders has made a large difference in their decision to change the orders.
"Manitobans deserve to be proud," he says, gesturing to their neighbours to the west and east who continue to struggle with cases.
Both the doctor and Premier say that Manitobans will need to assure they are staying COVID careful, hoping that even after the pandemic Manitobans will use the habits learned during this time.
Roussin says when they look at orders, the health professionals need to balance risk with cost.
"This is part of that challenge, finding that balance. We know there are immediate health effects not only to those who acquire COVID-19 but to those who are in need of healthcare for other reasons," Roussin says.
The doctor is reminding Manitobans that the province has created mental health supports for residents.
Pallister is asking Manitobans to remain hopeful.
"I would understand that people have made sacrifices very very much, but I also understand that those sacrifices are paying off," he says.
The Premier says the cautious reopenings will have Manitoban needs in mind as they begin to hear feedback from residents on what they want to see opening.
"We are always going to be keeping in mind the impact this has on our health system and it has on real people in our province."
He hopes Manitobans are proud of the work they have done, saving the estimated 1,700 lives that were projected to have been lost since November to the virus.