With an explosion of new COVID-19 cases in Manitoba the Winnipeg Metropolitan region will be moving to "Red” or “Critical” on the Pandemic Level Response System. While all health districts that are not the Winnipeg Metropolitan region will move to “Orange” or “Restricted". The changes will come into effect on Monday.

It was without joy that Chief Public Health Officer for Manitoba Dr. Brent Roussin announced new restrictions across the entire province today.

“We need to get on top of this now,” he demanded.

This comes as the province of Manitoba announced 480 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday.

As of Monday, similar “Orange” restrictions that were formerly implemented in the municipalities and towns closest to Winnipeg are now in place for Southern Health, Prairie Mountain Health, and Interlake-Eastern Health regions.

Next week, the following changes will be put in place in these regions:

-Public and private group gathering sizes limited to five, in addition to household.

-Capacity limited to 50 per cent at restaurants and bars, with group sizes limited to five.

-Reduced retail capacity to 50 per cent, encouraging limiting those who go shopping from each household.

-Blended learning for grades 9 to 12, voluntary blended learning temporarily available for kindergarten to Grade 8, encouraging as much physical distancing as possible.

-Personal services have no change and stay at 50 per cent capacity.

-Reduced spectators at sports and recreation facilities to 25 per cent.

-Gyms and fitness centers require contact information for all attendees and mask use at all times, except when exercising.

-Faith-based gatherings are reduced to 20 per cent or 250 people, whichever is lower.

“The incubation period for this virus is up to 14 days – if we limit our contacts and stay home, we could see drastic reductions in transmission within weeks,” says Roussin. “We have done this before and I am confident we can do it again. But we need to be serious about this if we want to bend the curve.”

COVID-19 restrictions in the Winnipeg Metropolitan Region, including communities like Niverville, the RM of Tache and the RM of Richot, are now even more strict.

Next week, the following changes will be put in place in this region:

-Bars and restaurants will be closed except for take-out and delivery.

-Most retail will be reduced to 25 per cent capacity.

-Sports and recreation programming will be suspended.

-Gyms and fitness centres will have reduced capacity to 25 per cent and masks will be mandatory, even when exercising.

-Movie theatres and concert halls will close.

-Personal services have no change and stay at 50 per cent capacity.

-Non-urgent and elective surgeries and diagnostics will be suspended. Scheduled surgeries in a number of essential and time-sensitive areas will continue to be performed including cancer, cardiac and trauma. Patients will be contacted directly if their scheduled surgeries are affected.

-Visitation at all Manitoba hospitals has been suspended, with exceptions made on a case-by-case basis for patients receiving end-of-life care, in labour and delivery, as well as in pediatrics.

-Faith-based gatherings are reduced to 15 per cent or 100 people, whichever is lower.

In addition to these changes, the government is encouraging businesses in the Winnipeg Metropolitan Region to have staff work from home wherever possible, and for residents to stay home when sick and take whatever action possible to reduce their contacts and any public gatherings.

As the second wave of COVID-19 hits southern Ontario and Manitoba, the Northwestern Health Unit is urging residents to stay in northern Ontario.

“It is recommended that non-essential travel outside northern Ontario should be avoided,” said Dr. Kit Young Hoon, medical officer of health at the NWHU. “That includes shopping trips, sports and other similar activities.”

Those that wish to travel outside the region can, but should perform a risk assessment before leaving the area.

“Determine whether the purpose of your trip is worth the risk of potentially contracting COVID-19 and bringing it back to our area,” Dr. Young Hoon states. “Northern Ontario is not seeing the spike in cases that other areas like Manitoba and southern Ontario are seeing, and we must all do our part to keep it that way.”

If you do travel outside of northern Ontario, the health unit says you should self-isolate for 14 days upon returning if you have come in contact with a close contact of a positive case or have been exposed to an outbreak situation.