Manitoba to fully remove health measures by mid-March

Manitobans will no longer be requiring vaccine passports as well as many other health measures in the near future.

Premier Heather Stephanson announced Friday, some restrictions would begin to be lifted as of Feb. 15, as the province moves to “yellow” on the provincial response system.

As of 12:01 a.m. on Feb. 15, capacity limits will be eliminated in venues such as; restaurants, licensed premises, entertainment venues, indoor and outdoor sporting events and casinos and gatherings at private residences.

The province added close contacts of someone who tested positive for COVID-19 will no longer have to self-isolate as of Feb. 15. But individuals who test positive for COVID-19 must continue with self-isolation until they no longer have symptoms.

As of Mar. 1, the vaccine cards will no longer be required.

Come Mar. 15, mask requirements and all other health restrictions will be eliminated.

WATCH: Manitoba health update – Feb. 11

“Based on the information and data monitored by public health, we are seeing strong signals that the Omicron wave has peaked and is now having a reduced impact here in Manitoba,” said Dr. Brent Roussin, the province’s chief provincial public health officer.

“As a result, it’s prudent to continue to reduce our public health restrictions. I want to remind Manitobans that this is an important time of transition and we still need to get vaccinated, wear a mask and do simple but important things like washing our hands and staying home when we are sick. We need to remain cautious about gathering sizes, even as we shift from public health rules to public health recommendations.”

The decision comes days after Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Jazz Atwal said the province would not rush to loosen COVID-19 restrictions and would take a different approach from what was announced from the other prairie provinces.

“Just because one province is doing something doesn’t mean we’re necessarily going to do that,” Atwal stated on Tuesday.

“We have to look at what we have from a capacity standpoint, to look at what we recommend from a public health perspective, and we’re going to continue to do that.”

Earlier in the week Alberta and Saskatchewan both announced similar plans to remove the use of vaccine cards. Alberta, unlike Manitoba, eliminated the need for vaccine cards at 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday. And Saskatchewan will see the removal of vaccine cards starting Monday.

Meanwhile, B.C. has announced a plan to gradually remove certain health measures, which allowed for gyms and fitness centers to reopen at the start of February, with additional plans to remove more mandates on Feb. 16, but the province has yet to announce plans to remove vaccine cards.

Just like B.C., Quebec will also be seeing most health measures be removed as of Feb. 16.

Other changes coming into effect on Tuesday will include; capacity limits removed for outdoor public gatherings but limited to 50 people indoors unless proof of vaccination is required. Meanwhile, children aged 12 to 17 participating in indoor sports and recreation will no longer be required to provide proof of vaccination or recent testing.

Manitoba’s announcement also comes a week after a convoy protesting COVID-19 health restrictions and vaccine mandates rolled in on the provincial legislature – one of many ongoing protests currently being seen across the country.

Despite the convoy at the legislature – which has also moved to block the Emerson border crossing – Stephanson insisted the removal of health measures was not the province caving into the pressure of those that are unhappy, but that it was a plan the province was close to making regardless.

“This has been ongoing. Dr. Roussin said weeks ago, that we were looking at probably the spring when we would be removing all the restrictions,” she explained. “That was before protesters were out in front of the legislature.

“We have been having these discussions for some time. We’ve been following the data, the data is now telling us that the ICUs are on decline, the ICU capacity for COVID patients is on decline, the hospitalization capacity is on decline, so now it’s time to safely move forward with the reduction of these restrictions.”

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