Manitoba bans in-store sales of non-essential items, visitors to homes with some exceptions

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Manitoba is clamping down on private gatherings and businesses selling non-essential items in an effort to slow the alarming rise in coronavirus infections in the province.

New COVID-19 public health orders will prohibit people from having anyone inside their home who doesn't live there, with few exceptions, and businesses from selling non-essential items in stores.

Previous orders, which came into effect last week, allowed gatherings at private residences of up to five people beyond those who normally live there, although Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin and others pleaded with Manitobans to stay home and only go out for essential items.

"Despite that, we saw people gathering at rallies, we saw crowded parking lots at big-box stores, we saw people continue to go out for non-essential items," Roussin said at a news conference Thursday.

"So we're left with no choice but to announce further measures to protect Manitobans, to limit the spread of this virus."

Exceptions to the no-visitors rule include visits between a child and a parent or guardian who does not normally live with that child, and people providing child care or other services deemed essential, such as education, construction or repairs, and deliveries.

People who live alone will also be allowed to have one designated person in their home as a visitor, and they can also visit that person.

Businesses that sell essential items such as food, medication, office supplies and major appliances will be required to remove any non-essential goods from the shelves or rope off those areas.

The new orders also further restrict capacity at large retailers to either 25 per cent of normal capacity or a maximum of 250 people, whichever is lower. Previous public health orders simply limited capacity at 25 per cent, without a hard cap on numbers.

The orders come into effect on Friday, except for the rule requiring businesses to prevent access to non-essential items; businesses must not sell non-essential goods starting Friday, but have until Saturday to remove them from shelves or rope off those areas of stores. Curbside pickup of non-essential items will still be allowed.

The restrictions will remain in effect until at least Dec. 11.