WINNIPEG — Manitoba's COVID-19 numbers have started to drop somewhat following a surge last week and after restrictions were imposed on restaurants and bars.
Health officials reported 80 new cases and the deaths of two residents at a Winnipeg personal care home Monday.
It was the fourth consecutive day that the new case number was in the double-digits after peaking last week at 173.
Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin said there is no definitive way to link the drop to earlier closing times that were imposed on licensed restaurants and bars in the Winnipeg region two weeks ago.
But he said that was the aim of the rules — to cut the case count by reducing the amount of time people spend gathered in groups in close quarters.
"We just know with this virus that it's prolonged indoor contact, and so businesses that have that as a major part of their business operation are unfortunately quite affected by this pandemic.
"And so when we see the cases going up, we have to do whatever we can to try to keep the numbers manageable."
Further restrictions in greater Winnipeg took effect Monday. Casinos and live-entertainment nightclubs must close. Bars, lounges and restaurants must operate at half capacity.
The measures are to be in place for two weeks and may be extended if COVID-19 numbers don't drop.
Bars that are attached to hotels — licensed with the province under the category of "beverage rooms" — were originally supposed to be closed for two weeks as well. But the government changed its mind at the last minute and allowed them to stay open under the same half-capacity limit as bars, lounges and restaurants.
"We're happy that they're having a different thought on that," Scott Jocelyn, president of the Manitoba Hotel Association, said of the government move.
"So many areas of our industry have been impacted (by the pandemic) and it (would have been) just another body blow."
Business groups in Winnipeg have said bars and restaurants were already hurting and the increased restrictions are likely to force some to close unless the Manitoba government offers financial help.
The province has already offered general wage subsidies to businesses, but has been noncommittal on further aid geared toward the hospitality sector.
The province is also trying to tackle long wait times for testing by using doctors' offices after normal business hours.
The first office is scheduled to open Tuesday evening at a walk-in clinic in the city's south end. Appointments will be available online.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 19, 2020
Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press