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Manitoba is loosening some COVID-19 restrictions and removing its mask mandate as the province moves toward the next step of reopening.

“Thanks to the remarkable efforts of Manitobans, we are now in a position to reopen more, sooner, as we have achieved our highest vaccination rates yet,” Premier Brian Pallister said Tuesday.

Pallister saidManitobans will be able to enjoy more freedoms when the rules change Saturday, as the province reaches another vaccination milestone.

Eighty per cent of eligible people have received one dose of a vaccine and more than 71 per cent are fully vaccinated with two doses.

The next phase of the plan was set for Sept. 6 and required 75 per cent — or about 25,000 more people — to have two vaccine doses. Pallister said he expects the province to reach that milestone this week.

The change will see many public health restrictions move into recommendations.

Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief provincial public health officer, said it’s the largest loosening of restrictions in the province since the beginning of the pandemic.

All restrictions are removed for private gatherings and businesses, including hair salons, libraries, retail stores, malls and gyms. Roussin said individual businesses will make their own decisions about whether to continue requiring masks or restricting the number of people inside.

The rules are also loosened for religious services, sporting events and casinos. Restaurants and bars will no longer need to restrict the space between tables and people dining are not required to eat with only those in their household.

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