As Manitobans brace for a second unusual Easter, Manitoban's Chief Public Health Officer is optimistic that holidays will return to normal soon.

For the second year in a row, Manitobans are restricting their Easter gatherings. What is new in 2021 compared to 2020 is the ability to have some people over from household bubbles.

"This year, again, unfortunately, is going to have to look different," Dr. Brent Roussin says about household gatherings.

He says this is "yet another holiday that is going to need to be celebrating differently. We are really hoping this is going to be perhaps the last one that has to be celebrated this substantially different."

He says as more people get vaccinated they will be able to decrease the province-wide restrictions.

Roussin does not want to see a third wave start due to Easter gatherings. He says the second wave at Thanksgiving saw more COVID cases due to household gatherings.

In Manitoba, there are 77 cases of COVID-19 variants of concern that are more likely to spread the virus, causing concern for public health doctors. Roussin is asking younger Manitobans to stay on guard, as early evidence is showing increased and longer hospital stays for affected younger people. Younger Manitobans are also lower on the COVID-19 vaccination general population list.

"There is hope," he says. "We just cannot let up right now."

As Manitobans begin their spiritual celebrations, regular Holy Week services are considered regular religious services and can operate as such.

"Those can certainly continue as per the Public Health Orders and they would have to abide by the gathering limits," the doctor says, encouraging Manitobans to decrease overall gatherings. 

In a Friday press conference, Dr. Jazz Atwal, Manitoba's Deputy Chief Public Health Officer, said churches can hold regular services outdoors if on the church property following the building's limits.

News on potential increased capacity at places of worship, and when those changes will be made, are being shared on Tuesday.