Manitoba mulling curfew to stem tide of COVID-19 cases, Pallister says!/fileImage/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/16x9_620/manitoba-premier-brian-pallister.jpg

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister is vowing to ramp up COVID-19 enforcement, and says his government is giving “serious consideration” to imposing a curfew to stop people from gathering in large groups, despite public health orders.

He says the province’s chief public health officer has recommended further steps to curb such gatherings.

“These late-night situations in Winnipeg have expanded our number of COVID cases significantly,” Pallister said  Monday morning. “According to Dr. [Brent] Roussin, this is an action that we should seriously consider, and I am seriously considering it now.”

Pallister made the announcement this morning at a news conference on the first day Winnipeg and the surrounding area was under heightened pandemic restrictions.

It moved into the red, or critical, stage of the provincial pandemic response plan as of Monday.

He also urged Manitobans to restrict the number of personal contacts they have by 75 per cent for the month of November.

The premier said he doesn’t think past efforts to increase enforcement on COVID-19 rule-breakers has worked sufficiently.

“The number of tickets going out is too low,” he said. “It’s clear that talking about enforcement is not the same as doing enforcement, and so we need to step up.”

Pallister said he plans to release more details about enforcement plans later this week. He’s asking Manitobans to weigh in online on the idea of a curfew.

The province has been criticized for not having a more robust response to the second wave.

Two groups of doctors have penned letters to the premier and health minister in recent days imploring them to act swiftly to bring COVID-19 numbers down or risk “grave peril” in the health-care system. 

The number of patients in hospital with the illness has surged precipitously in recent weeks. Health officials say intensive care units are nearing capacity.

Pallister touted the province’s attempts to improve contact tracing and testing over the past several months, following weeks-long backlogs.

He said three large sites have been added in the past week, which have increased daily testing capacity by 40 per cent.

An appointment-based COVID-19 test-booking system has registered 10,000 appointments since it was unveiled on Oct. 20. Wait times in that system are less than one minute, the premier said.

Manitobans will have a total of 30 sites in the coming weeks, and that will increase testing capacity to 4,250 per day.

Monday’s news conference marks the first time the premier has spoken publicly since the enhanced restrictions for the province were announced last week.

Pallister did not speak at a Friday news conference announcing the new measures, and instead issued a news release after the public health update.

More to come