Published:June 23, 2021
Premier Brian Pallister has benevolently decreed he’s loosening COVID-19 restrictions Manitobans have long endured.
Let freedom ring!
Not so fast.
The ‘freedoms’ Pallister is granting rely almost entirely on vaccinations, strengthening his plan to introduce controversial immunization cards.
This plan has earned him condemnation from the Manitoba Human Rights Commission.
Pallister, flanked by Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin, announced health order changes at a press conference Wednesday.
Some restrictions will be loosened effective Saturday in the province’s COVID-19 reopening plan.
Pallister will allow people, but not a lot of people, to go to church, salons, gyms, and restaurants.
Manitobans will once again be free to worship their God and attend pow wows – only under Pallister’s terms.
Up to 25 people may attend indoor services, if they wear masks. Outdoor services allow for 50 people, no matter how big the parking lot or field may be. Social distancing between households applies.
Hair salons and barbers can open – by appointment only because any walk-in will surely be COVID-19 infected – to 50% capacity, but retail businesses only 25% up to 250 people.
Restaurants and bars can fling open their doors to welcome a 25% capacity inside, 50% capacity outdoors. But only fully vaccinated people from different households may dine at the same table indoors.
Outdoor dining allows eight people per table, even from different households, vaccinated or not!
There’s more good news.
People will be able to attend large-scale performing arts and sporting events, but only if the events are first approved by Manitoba Public Health. Criteria for approval remains a mystery. But attendees must be vaccinated.
How to determine who is vaccinated in restaurants and at sporting events wasn’t revealed, but certainly points to immunization cards.
Manitobans will also be granted the privilege of having 10 people on their private property, but only outdoors.
Residents of personal care homes and congregate living facilities will be able to participate in social activities. But if grandma isn’t vaccinated, she’s banished to more painful isolation in her room. And she can’t have visitors unless they’re vaccinated.
The number of Manitoba COVID-19 infections is steadily declining, currently standing at 55,467 cases, 52,478 recovered, and 1,129 reported deaths.
Pallister said the restrictions are being loosened a week earlier than planned because vaccination goals have been surpassed with 71% of Manitobans having received their first COVID-19 shot, and 27% their second dose.
“After nearly a year and-a-half of fighting COVID-19, it’s time for Manitobans to start to get some of their freedoms back and enjoy this beautiful summer. It’s what we all want to do. Manitobans have earned that right,” said Pallister.
“Manitobans will be able to resume some of the activities they’ve missed and see the people they love more frequently.”
Did Pallister loosen restrictions early to deflect negative attention from his immunization card scheme announced earlier in June?
“We need to see what the reopening plan is going to say and if it specifically cites use of the immunization card as a factor,” he said at the time.