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New Health Orders Target Southern Churchgoers and Indoor Sports

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With COVID-19 case numbers once again reaching concerning levels throughout Manitoba, particularly in the Southern Health region, and hospitalizations creeping upward and placing strain on the healthcare system, the provincial government has announced some new public health measures.

The changes primarily target religious gatherings in Southern Health and children who are involved in indoor sports.

Religious gatherings throughout Southern Health are being limited in cases where there is no requirement in place to prove attendees’ vaccination status. Capacity for these services is being limited to 25 people.

However, if a venue is large enough to split congregants into cohorts, then multiple groups of 25 can gather as long as they remain isolated from each other in separate rooms. The maximum number is 250 people, or 10 cohorts.

Religious gatherings which require proof of vaccination may continue to meet without capacity limits.

Also exempt from this order is the town of Niverville along with the RMs of Ritchot, Tache, Cartier, Headingly, Macdonald, and St. Francois Xavier. These high-vaccination areas are deemed to be part of the Winnipeg capital region, despite being part of Southern Health geographically.

These communities are also exempt from the existing retail capacity restrictions, which are otherwise at 50 percent in Southern Health.

According to Audrey Gordon, Manitoba’s Minister of Health, the new order will be enforced through the use of unannounced inspectors checking in on churches to ensure that the rules are being followed.

Another new rule—this one, provincewide—is that young people between the ages of 12 and 17 will either need to be vaccinated or show a recent negative test in order to participate in indoor sports. The negative test must have been taken within 72 hours of the event, and it must have been taken at a private pharmacy—not at one of the province’s free public testing sites, which are intended to be accessed only by people who are symptomatic.

This rule also applies to kids who are participating in overnight camps.

These new public health measures take effect at midnight on Saturday, November 13. Although there is a built-in grace period until December 5 for kids who have not yet been vaccinated.

Additionally, a range of surgeries have had to be cancelled in Winnipeg in order to free up space in the province’s ICUs, which are once again seeing a surge in COVID-19 admissions.

So far, the affected patients are those with scheduled procedures in the Pan Am Clinic, Misericordia Health Centre, Victoria Hospital, and Seven Oaks General Hospital. Patients whose surgeries have been rescheduled will receive a phone call.

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