New public health orders in Manitoba will target religious services in the province’s southern health region and force young people across the province to either get a shot or pay for a COVID-19 test before taking part in indoor sports.
Under the orders, which go into effect Saturday morning, religious gatherings in the southern health region will be limited to 25 people, unless the facility is able to physically divide their space to allow for cohorts.
Chief public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin said the the gatherings will be capped at 25 per cent capacity to a maximum of 250 people, if physical distancing and cohorts are set up.
Religious services that only allow vaccinated people can continue without restrictions, Roussin said, adding the new rules for religious services won’t be put in place in areas of southern health near Winnipeg where vaccination uptake has been higher and caps on retail capacity have already been lifted.
More restrictions imminent in Manitoba
The southern health region has the lowest vaccine uptake in the province and has been a major source of hospitalizations in recent weeks.
Meanwhile, restrictions coming into effect province-wide Dec. 6 will see proof of at least one dose of vaccine or a recent negative test required for those 12 to 17 years of age to take part in indoor, recreational sports. The tests will need to have been done within 72 hours before being allowed into a rec facility.
The testing will need to be done at participating pharmacies, and won’t be allowed through free, provincial test sites, Roussin added.
“We’re all disappointed, we’re all frustrated, that we’re looking at further restrictions,” Roussin said Friday.
“(But) We know if we don’t take further steps we certainly are at risk of overwhelming that healthcare system again.”
New modelling, cancelled surgeries
Roussin showed new modelling Friday that says the demand for intensive care beds could soon reach a level similar to the height of the third wave last spring.
He said the number of new cases reported daily have been rising in Manitoba over the last four weeks, most predominately in those aged 19 and under.
The modelling shows without restrictions Manitoba could be announcing 200 new cases a day by the beginning of December and ICUs could be seeing three new admissions a day by mid-way through the month.
“That’s not a sustainable number,” Roussin said.
Hospital prepare as COVID-19 cases climb again
Health officials reported 193 new cases Friday. Almost half of them were in the southern health region, which makes up 15 per cent of Manitoba’s population.
The province is also cancelling some surgeries to make capacity for the rising cases and a surge in ICU numbers, which is already happening.
The cancelled health procedures will boost the province’s ICU bed capacity to 110, officials said. There were 86 patients in ICU across the province as of Friday morning, including 30 as a result of COVID-19.
Health Minister Audrey Gordon says changes are needed to stop a rising number of cases and to keep hospital beds available.
Manitoba patients being sent 300 kms away to free up beds for COVID, surgery backlog: family
“Rising case counts and COVID-19 transmission in the province means we need to introduce new measures now,” she said.
“We must be proactive in protecting our healthcare system and ensure we have hospital beds.”
“Once again we must ask Manitobans to do more to reduce the current COVID-19 case numbers and community transmission which in turn will help reduce the strain on the healthcare system.”
Southern Health Region leads COVID-19 rise in Manitoba
At a press conference Wednesday — as he announced 143 new cases and two deaths linked to COVID-19 — Roussin warned Manitobans would soon face stricter public health orders, but didn’t say what the new orders will look like or when they’ll go into place.
Manitoba already limits access to venues such as cinemas, restaurants and pro sporting events to people who are fully vaccinated. Gatherings in private homes are limited to members of one other household if anyone in attendance is unvaccinated.
In the southern health region, except for a few bedroom communities near Winnipeg, capacity at retail stores is limited to 50 per cent.
Roussin said all previously announced public health orders will remain in effect.
—With files from The Canadian Press
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