WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) – Bars and casinos in the Canadian city of Winnipeg will close for two weeks and stores and restaurants will reduce their capacities to half, Manitoba health officials said on Friday, attempting to slow rising COVID-19 infections.
Gatherings will be restricted to five people outside a household, down from 10. The restrictions will take effect on Monday in the city of nearly 800,000 residents.
Manitoba, with a population of 1.4 million, had seen among the fewest infections among provinces, but that changed in autumn. The province now has the highest rate of active cases per capita, although its case count is well below the more populous provinces of Quebec, Ontario and Alberta.
Canada’s infections have risen steadily since September, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has described it as a second wave.
The problem in Manitoba grew as people socialized even while sick, going to parties and work, said Dr. Brent Roussin, the province’s chief public health officer.
“These numbers show we have lost our way,” he said. “We need to make changes now.”
Health Minister Cameron Friesen said people became complacent this summer when Manitoba went weeks without a new confirmed infection.
“There was too much high-fiving going on,” he said.
Ontario announced new measures that will take effect in York region, north of Toronto, beginning on Monday. The region will join the cities of Ottawa, Toronto and nearby Peel region in closing indoor dining, gyms, fitness centers, casinos and more.
Average case counts have accelerated in Ontario despite limited testing capacity that may mean public health officials are missing some new infections.
Quebec, the country’s hardest-hit province with more than 6,000 deaths due to the virus, is seeing cases stabilize, after it closed bars, theaters and restaurant dining rooms in areas like Montreal this month.
“Our efforts are paying off but we must continue if we want our cases to decline,” Health Minister Christian Dube said.
(Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Allison Martell in Toronto and Allison Lampert in Montreal; Editing by Richard Chang)