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Businesses, epidemiologist express concerns over Manitoba lifting mask mandate


Come Saturday, Manitoba will no longer be required to wear a mask in an indoor public setting, which has some concerned about the message being sent.

The change is part of the province's updated health orders, changed to reflect rising vaccination rates, with the mask mandate changing to a "recommendation."

"Public health will no longer require mask use under the public health orders," Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin said Tuesday.

Mask use will still be recommended for Manitobans who are not fully vaccinated and children under the age of twelve, who are not currently eligible for vaccination. Masks will also continue to be required during entry and while in health-care facilities, including hospitals and personal care homes, the province said. Medical masks will be provided by the facility.

Epidemiologist Cynthia Carr is concerned over the message the province is sending by lifting the mask mandate.

"When you're given an option to wear or not wear a mask, it certainly does imply that there isn't much risk to not wearing a mask, or else it wouldn't be an option," she said.

Not wearing a mask certainly poses a public health risk, said Carr, especially since the highly contagious Delta variant is now circulating in Manitoba.

"My preference would be that (masks) would be the last layer of protection removed," she said, adding that not requiring masks indoors poses risks for young unvaccinated children when school resumes.

Businesses can still require customers to wear masks, which will be the case at Unique Bunny on Osborne Street, one of the first Winnipeg businesses to implement an in-store mask policy last year.

"We have a responsibility to protect our employees and their families,” said Kazumi Yoshino, assistant manager at Unique Bunny.

"Maybe some of our customers will reject to wear a mask indoors," she said. "We just can't."

Based on conversations with business owners and operators, The Manitoba Chambers of Commerce expects most businesses will maintain a mask-wearing policy for their employee's safety, but also to ensure customers feel comfortable walking around inside.

"I think if you just decide on Saturday, 'We don't have to wear masks anymore, no rules,' I don't think you're going to have a business a lot of people are going to feel comfortable going into," said Chuck Davidson, CEO for the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce.

Davidson said lifting restrictions on retail and most other business sectors is a positive development, but, he said, removing a mask mandate could make some Manitobans less likely to head to a store or restaurant. Top Stories

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