Is Manitoba ready for the next phase of reopening? An epidemiologist weighs in
WINNIPEG -- With the Manitoba government releasing its proposed plan for the next phase of reopening, some people may be left wondering whether the province is in a good spot to ease more restrictions.
On Thursday, Dr. Brent Roussin, chief provincial public health officer, announced the proposed changes to the current public health orders, which would be implemented in two phases over a period of six weeks.
The potential changes include modifications to household and outdoor gathering rules, allowing more businesses to open and increase capacity, and permitting gyms and fitness centres to provide group instruction with limitations in place.
As for whether Manitoba is in a good position for this reopening plan, epidemiologist Cynthia Carr said Manitobans still need to be careful, despite the recent decline in cases.
“Certainly, we’re seeing us going in the right direction, but we need to be very cautious,” she said.
“This isn’t about panicking, but we need to be cautious given the variants of concern in Canada and our knowledge about how transmissible they are.”
Before the potential new restrictions are put in place, the province is asking Manitobans to provide feedback online.
Carr said meaningful consultation is important so that people can know they are part of the solution, however, the province needs to take a science-based approach to reopening.
“Is it based on research and data about safety that we’ve learned globally about the safest opportunities?” she said.
“I think that people would be much more comfortable understanding a little bit more about this long list. Are all of them based on the same kind of data and research, because I don’t think that I would want the province to be guided by just, kind of, what we wish or what’s most important to us.”
Though Roussin described this as the largest phase of reopening yet, not everyone was included. Some businesses, such as indoor theatres, indoor concert halls and casinos, must still remain closed.
Carr said for Manitoba to fully reopen it would take a multi-layered approach.
“When we looked at Health Canada projections that were released in the last week or so, there were different scenarios based on reducing restrictions and then also looking at the impacts of variants and those differences are very large based on both of those scenarios,” she said.
She said it depends on whether Manitoba controls the community-based spread of COVID-19 and if the province continues with its vaccine rollout. Carr added that people also need to follow the public health rules.
“But with that, our ongoing adherence to consistent, good fit, wearing of masks and social distancing and not pushing the envelope when restrictions are lifted,” she said.
- With files from CTV’s Charles Lefebvre and Nicole Dube.