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Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister speaks to the media in Winnipeg, in a March 11, 2020, file photo.

JOHN WOODS/The Canadian Press

Manitoba has declared a state of emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic and is promising millions of dollars to make sure essential front-line workers have access to child care.

“This decision was not made lightly,” Premier Brian Pallister said Friday. “However, we must continue to use every tool available to flatten the curve and reduce the spread of COVID-19 on our communities and our health-care system.”

The emergency declaration is to be in place for at least 30 days.

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Pallister said it means the province will be able to react more quickly to the novel coronavirus.

It gives the government a legal mandate to limit public gatherings to no more than 50 people, including at places of worship, weddings and funerals.

Bars, restaurants and theatres are also held to the same limit, or half capacity, whichever is less. Businesses must ensure distances of one to two metres between customers.

Fitness centres and training facilities, bingo halls and other gaming sites are also being ordered to close.

Several other provinces have already declared states of emergency.

Manitoba also announced Friday that it is dedicating $27.6 million in funding for child-care spaces for health-care and other essential front-line workers. The money is to help licensed centres provide care for up to 16 children.

The money is also to be used to reimburse parents for child care they no longer have.

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The province previously announced that schools will be closed from this coming Monday until April 13.

“This pandemic requires all Manitobans to change how they live their daily lives, but it is clear that we are all willing to work together to find solutions,” said Families Minister Heather Stefanson.

Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief health officer, has also called for pharmacies to limit prescriptions given to clients to a one-month supply to avoid stockpiling.

The number of novel coronavirus cases in the province remained at 17 on Friday. All but one have been connected to international travel or another positive test. One person has been hospitalized.

Pallister said most residents have been co-operating with social-distancing recommendations.

“Manitobans have lead the way by listening to the advice of experts and I commend all Manitobans for recognizing the critical needs for social distancing,” he said.

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