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Manitoba courts clamp down after COVID-19 alert issued for Winnipeg region

Tuesday, November 03, 2020 @ 1:10 PM | By Terry Davidson

Two of Manitoba’s courts have enacted heightened health screening for visitors while another has reverted to remote hearings after a critical alert was issued for the Winnipeg area following a spike in COVID-19 numbers.

As of Nov. 3, the provincial court and Court of Queen’s Bench in Winnipeg enacted enhanced screening at courthouse entry points, while the Manitoba Court of Appeal returned to hearing matters via video and teleconference after a short period of resuming some in-person appearances.

According a Manitoba Court notice, the provincial court, in response to the red alert in Winnipeg and an orange alert for the rest of the province, has as of Nov. 3 enacted enhanced health screening, including temperature checks, for those entering its courthouses across Manitoba, including circuit courts.

“At this time, the … provincial court will continue to hear both in custody and out of custody matters in all of the major court centres and the circuits which remain open,” it states. “All existing protocols remain in force, including the use of remote hearings where applicable. The provincial court is working closely with Courts Administration to enhance the ability to appear remotely.”

Manitoba’s Court of Queen’s Bench at the Law Courts Complex in Winnipeg, while remaining operational and holding remote hearings whenever possible, has also beefed up its health screening for those entering the building for in-person hearings, according to another notice.

Visitors will be asked “additional and more probing” questions by sheriff’s officers, states a separate notice. Members of the public, counsel and other “stakeholders” will also be subject to temperature checks.  

As for Manitoba’s Court of Appeal, which is also located at the Law Courts Complex, it will return to hearing appeals via videoconference and handle motions and applications by teleconference.

The Appeal Court has also put in place enhanced health screening and temperature checks for the public, counsel and anyone else wanting to enter the building.

The Appeal Court had resumed some in-person hearings toward the end of June after putting in place public health measures to address precautions such as physical distancing.

These new moves by all three levels of court come in response to Manitoba’s government late last week issuing a “critical” code red alert for the Winnipeg Metropolitan Region following a rise in cases of COVID-19.

Under the new orders, public gatherings are capped at five people — unless certain exceptions apply — and restaurants, bars, brew pubs, micro-breweries and distilleries are to remain closed to in-person dining.

Grocery stores and pharmacies must limit their capacity to 50 per cent, while all other retail locations must reduce their intake to 25 per cent or five people, whichever is higher (not including employees). Gyms and fitness facilities are also to limit occupancy to 25 per cent of their capacity.

All recreational facilities, arcades, bowling alleys, museums, galleries, libraries, movie theatres, concert halls and indoor and outdoor sports facilities are to keep closed.

On Oct. 30, it was announced by Manitoba health officials that the Winnipeg Metropolitan Region would enter the critical level after a reportedly record-breaking 480 new cases of COVID-19 were diagnosed.

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