Manitoba is officially under a state of emergency due to COVID-19.
Premier Brian Pallister announced the state of emergency at a provincial COVID-19 update March 20.
“The best defense we have isn't just a government officer going and trying to stop a restaurant from [opening],” Pallister said.
The state of emergency allows Manitoba to enforce social distancing efforts. Under current rules, any gatherings of 50 people or more are effectively banned until further notice.
“As you come across a situation where people are not observing the social distancing rules, I'd like you to go on the internet and tell everybody not to shop there,” Pallister said.
“Don't go there. Don't honour that kind of behavior. In fact, it's a dishonour. It's unsafe and I would encourage Manitobans to be defenders of the safety of all of us.”
Any person not following orders from the provincial government could face a fine of up to $50,000 or six months in prison. Corporations not following the rules could be fined up to $500,000.
Pallister acknowledged this was restricting freedoms and said most of the population has been following the province’s recommendations.
“We must continue to use every tool we have available to flatten the curve here and do our part to protect all Manitobans,” he said.
“The measures that we're taking today will enshrine what has already been happening in Manitoba.”
Manitoba’s chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin said there’s many ways to ensure people follow his instructions.
“We enforce other orders through public health inspectors, even police officers are a possibility,” he said.
“Almost always Manitobans will follow our advice.”
Officials continued to reiterate that the province's nine testing sites are not walk-in clinics. They can only be used by people referred there by a health care professional.
Manitoba’s phone screening line, Health Links - Info Santé, has received thousands of calls and has reduced wait times to just over an hour. Earlier this week, the wait time was nearly three hours. The online assessment tool from Shared Health Manitoba received over 30,000 hits on March 19.
Pallister said Manitoba would be well positioned to bounce back economically after the direct effects of the virus go away.
“We are going to be the home of hope, not only for the past 150 years, but going forward as well,” he said.
Pallister called on Manitobans to reach out to their neighbours and friends through phone calls or other ways to help combat the effects of social isolation.
“We’ll beat this thing,” he said as the news conference ended.