Premier of Manitoba Brian Pallister speaks at a news conference after the 2021 budget was delivered at the Manitoba Legislative Building in Winnipeg on April 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/David Lipnowski

Manitobans fully immunized against COVID-19 will be exempt from self-isolation rule

WINNIPEG — Manitobans who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 are being offered a new provincial government card that will allow them to travel within Canada without being subject to the province’s mandatory 14-day self-isolation period upon their return.

The proof-of-immunization card, revealed Tuesday by Premier Brian Pallister, will also exempt carriers from having to self-isolate if they are a close contact of a COVID-19 case. It will also grant them greater visitation rights at hospitals and personal care homes.

“Manitobans have … told us that getting back to the things they love is one of the biggest incentives to getting vaccinated,” Pallister said.

“We hope this is a temporary measure, of course. As we get to the point where everybody is vaccinated, we (won’t) need to worry so much about this.”

Pallister left open the possibility of using the cards to also determine access to major sporting events, museums and other facilities. He said there would be more details on what big-crowd events might be allowed later this week, when his Progressive Conservative government announces its pandemic reopening plan.

The government floated several possibilities in an online survey last week. Most of the respondents who were vaccine-hesitant said their minds would not be changed if being fully vaccinated meant they could go to concerts, sporting events, gyms and hospitals.

Pallister said he and other premiers have discussed the possibility of recognizing COVID-19 immunization records from each other’s provinces but the discussion was in its early stages.

Manitobans will be able to apply online for the immunization card two weeks after receiving their second dose. Opposition NDP Leader Wab Kinew said the government must ensure the cards are easily available to marginalized people.

“I’m thinking about people who may not have ready access to the internet, who may not own a smartphone,” Kinew said.

Manitoba reached a vaccination milestone on Tuesday, when two-thirds of people aged 12 and up had received at least one dose.

But the COVID-19 infection rate remained the highest in Canada. The province announced 237 new cases and two deaths. Dozens of intensive care patients were still being treated out of province in an effort to free up beds.

The province has also been increasing its efforts to enforce public health orders that have banned virtually all social gatherings and have closed gyms, churches, theatres and hair salons.

Enforcement officials were taking a church south of Steinbach to court. The maximum penalty for repeated violations is $1 million, the government said in a press release.

The Church of God (Restoration) has openly defied public health orders and has livestreamed in-person church services. It has been fined repeatedly and vowed Tuesday to continue.

“The Church of God (Restoration) would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge and thank the government of Manitoba for singling us out as being a church that has faithfully remained open and available to minister to the spiritual needs of the surrounding community,” read a message posted on the church’s Facebook page.

“As fines levied against us continue to grow, our resolve to obey God rather than man is only solidified and intensified.”

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