How does your business plan to deal with vaccination after March 1? And what about masking? Will you require employees to continue wearing masks for the foreseeable future? And what about customers or visitors to your place of business? How long do you feel it will take your business to return to pre-pandemic revenues?

These are just some of the questions we posed in our recent MBPulse survey, “Shifting COVID-19 Prevention Orders,” and we’ve collated aggregate results into a new survey report

On February 15, 2022, after two years of adapting to shifting COVID-19 prevention orders and additional health and safety measures, all Manitoba businesses, from restaurants and retail to hockey rinks and hospitality, were able to open to 100% capacity with the lifting of all COVID-19 operating restrictions. The Province of Manitoba also announced that effective March 1, Manitoba’s vaccine mandate would end, and by March 15, so would the mask mandate.

For businesses, these changes may be a welcome relief, or they may be worrisome, significant, and take time to implement. The pandemic has battered consumer confidence, and the total lifting of operating restrictions will not mean an immediate ‘return to normal’ for our business community.

“What we found is that none of the aggregate responses to our questions were particularly overwhelming in any one direction,” says Chuck Davidson, President & CEO, Manitoba Chambers of Commerce. “What this means is that there isn’t yet a definitive, clear approach to how the business community will manage these significant changes. Business leaders are still assessing and analyzing, and some of them may not be confident enough to make those decisions yet.”

For example, 32% of all business leaders respondents said they would continue with some level of masking policy for now — some for employees only, some for clients, some for both — while almost half said they would NOT voluntarily uphold any vaccine requirement after March 1. Yet, almost one in four (23%) said they hadn’t yet determined how they planned to handle vaccines in their organization, while 12% of total respondents stated they will continue requiring employees to be vaccinated.

Over the last two years, the business community has shown incredible resilience in navigating the COVID-19 pandemic. Without question, the last two years have been unbelievably challenging for Manitoba businesses from the perspectives of staffing, health & safety protocols implementation, and revenue generation, and many have taken on unprecedented levels of debt to keep their doors open.

“The guidance we are giving to our members at this point is that consumer confidence levels are still shaky. As a business owner, you need to make decisions for your establishment and operations that work for staff and customers that ensure people feel safe and comfortable. Don’t make hasty changes, and if you’re part of an industry association, look to your association for specific guidance. Let’s take our time rebuilding comfort levels and continuing to protect our health care system.”

“Shifting COVID-19 Prevention Orders” was open to all members of the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce, MB Pulse members, as well as to interested members of the business community from February 17 to 23, 2022. A total of 440 surveys were completed.