Manitoba fines as more than 100 protesters rally in Steinbach to protest COVID-19 restrictions

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Less than an hour after Manitoba announced its largest single-day increase in deaths from COVID-19, dozens of people gathered in Steinbach to protest increased public health restrictions implemented in Manitoba this week.More than 100 people gathered on Saturday afternoon in Steinbach, a town about 50 kilometers southeast of Winnipeg, to protest the additional restrictions that went into effect Thursday. The entire province is now at the red, or critical, level of the province’s pandemic response system.

Some protesters took their children with them.

Shortly before 3 p.m. on Saturday, provincial conservation and health officials who were present began fining some of the people participating in the protest. Some demonstrators, in turn, could be heard shouting blasphemies at officers.

The protest comes a day after a nurse, who works in the emergency room at Bethesda Regional Health Center in Steinbach, said the facility was overcapacity and the staff workload was unsustainable .

It also began less than an hour after the Manitoba government announced that 15 more people had died from COVID-19. The deaths occurred from November 2 to 13, but represent the largest number of COVID-19 deaths reported in a single day in Manitoba.

239 more cases of COVID-19 were announced Saturday in Manitoba. Forty of them were in the Southern Health region, which includes Steinbach.

Protesters were observed not practicing physical distancing or wearing protective masks. Some protesters wore other face masks that obscured their faces, such as a Guy Fawkes mask, popularized by the film V for Vendetta.

The Manitoba RCMP blocked vehicles from entering the rally.

Some counter-demonstrators were also present but remained in their vehicles.

Manitoba residents under strict conditions

Dr Brent Roussin, the province’s chief public health officer, said the restrictions currently in place are the tightest the province has seen throughout the pandemic.

Retail businesses deemed essential, such as grocery stores and pharmacies, are only allowed to operate at 25 percent capacity. Other retail businesses must close, but some may operate by curbside pickup or delivery.

Restaurants cannot offer dining on-site, but may offer take-out or delivery. Gyms, fitness centers and sports facilities must close. Businesses like barbershops and hair and nail salons are also having to close.

Protesters were not wearing protective masks or physical distancing. Some protesters, such as the man holding an upside down Canadian flag, wore masks to hide their faces. (Austin Grabish / CBC)

Religious and cultural services are prohibited unless they are organized virtually.

Masks should be worn in indoor public places. Gatherings are limited to a maximum of five people under current public health rules. However, Roussin said this week that no one should socialize with people they don’t live with.

Provincial fines for people breaking public health rules are $ 1,296, while businesses can be fined $ 5,000.



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