Over the weekend, COVID-19 prevention orders loosened a little bit more for many industries, but not for all, and Public Health is aiming for another round of changes when current orders expire at 12:01 AM on March 26.
The good news is that unlike in the Fall, Manitoba’s COVID-19 positive and presumptive case counts and test positivity rates continue to trend in the right direction.
Meanwhile, another vaccine formulation received Health Canada approval last week, and the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recently determined that second doses (in two-dose vaccine formulations) can be delayed by as many as four months.
The Manitoba government has set a goal to administer 20,000 jabs daily in order to keep up with the minimum 1.5 million doses it expects to receive from the federal government between April and June 2021. According to Johanu Botha, operational lead for the COVID-19 vaccine task force, the Province will make good on its commitment to provide a single shot to all adult Manitobans by May 18, 2021.
This is excellent news, because we understand that the past couple of months have been extremely challenging for many business owners, especially SMEs and those in the hospitality and personal services sectors. Amid the second wave and associated public health measures which closed all non-essential businesses and restricted others’ operations due to gathering limits, Manitoba business owners have expressed a significant level of frustration.
While we applaud the Government of Manitoba and all Manitobans for efforts to reduce the spread of COVID from winter levels, there are some key steps we can take to help businesses moving forward.
There are three main issues that MCC members from across the province have been bringing to our attention regularly, and we’re advocating with the Province of Manitoba to address these concerns in the next round of COVID-19 prevention orders:
- Take a regional approach to restrictions – Specifically in the Prairie Mountain Health region which as of March 7, 2021 has 14 active cases and Southern Health which has 34 active cases, we encourage Public Health to consider moving these regions to Orange on the Pandemic Response System.
- Remove the household-only table restrictions for restaurants – While we appreciate the recent increase to 50% capacity for restaurants, we urge the government to remove the “same household” restriction for these hospitality businesses. This restriction greatly limits the benefits of the re-opening plan.
- Inform Manitobans (in particular employers and business leaders) about proposed recovery plans and expected outcomes as vaccinations roll out – With the weekly increase in immunizations, we urge the Province to outline a future-looking readiness plan with a focus on the hardest hit sectors and regions of the province. It’s critical for Manitoba’s employers to be aware of how the reopening will unfold in a step-by-step fashion, and what that will look like in practical application, so they can plan and prepare.
Again, it is imperative for Manitobans to continue their vigilance in following the fundamentals. There is hope on the horizon, but we are not back to normal yet.