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Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba's chief public health officer, speaks at the legislature in Winnipeg on Dec. 16, 2020.JOHN WOODS/The Canadian Press

The Manitoba government is loosening a few of its COVID-19 restrictions, including one that limits how many people can gather outdoors, but it is stopping far short of proposals it floated last week.

As of Friday, the limit on outdoor gatherings is to go up to 25 people from 10. The maximum allowed at weddings and funerals is also to rise to 25 from 10.

A 50 per cent capacity rule for retail outlets is to max out at 500 people rather than 250.

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The province had been considering allowing casinos, theatres and concert halls to reopen and to exempt non-symptomatic business travellers from a mandatory 14-day quarantine. But the chief provincial public health officer pointed to rising COVID-19 case numbers, including cases involving highly contagious variants elsewhere in the country.

“We felt — looking at other jurisdictions, looking at variants of concern — that it just wouldn’t be prudent at this time to go with all of what we proposed,” Dr. Brent Roussin said Tuesday.

“Our path is continuing to loosen, but we just wanted to be quite cautious at this point.”

The only other change announced Tuesday is to allow people who attend drive-in events to leave their vehicles briefly, as long as they continue to follow other rules such as physical distancing.

There will be no more changes for at least three weeks, Roussin said. That means a two-household bubble for gatherings in private homes and a household-members-only rule at restaurant tables will remain in effect through Easter, Passover and Manitoba’s spring break.

Opposition NDP Leader Wab Kinew noted it will be the second Easter under pandemic restrictions.

“I think all Manitobans are willing to buy into this level of caution with the hopes that we get to the other side of the pandemic as soon as possible,” Kinew said.

There are signs, however, that some people aren’t buying in.

The Justice Department reported that 59 warnings and 32 tickets were issued last week for offences such as not wearing a mask in an indoor public place or exceeding limits on gatherings.

One person was charged in recent days related to an assault on an enforcement official on Feb. 19, and there were three other encounters involving verbal abuse, Premier Brian Pallister said.

“These folks are out there doing there best to protect you,” he said during a livestream news conference.

“They don’t deserve to be treated badly.”

Manitoba health officials reported 98 new COVID-19 cases and one additional death Tuesday. However, five cases from unspecified dates were removed due to data correction, bringing the net increase to 93.

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