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Manitoba has no current plans to bring back mask mandate: premier

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Manitoba’s premier says the province currently has no plans to reintroduce a mask mandate, even as federal officials recommend people wear masks again to help avoid strain on hospitals during respiratory virus season.

Premier Heather Stefanson was asked about a possible mandate as hospitals continue to deal with increased admissions, especially among children, for RSV and other respiratory viruses.

While she encouraged people to protect others, she said a mask mandate was not planned right now.

“Respiratory virus season comes every year at this time. And you know, we're seeing an uptick in that, of course. But, for right now, we're not looking at any mask mandates as of right now,” Stefanson said.

“But certainly, I encourage people who are maybe feeling a little under the weather, please, protect others. Do wear a mask if you're out and about in public and make sure you're protecting others, and particularly our health-care workers as well.”

Manitoba’s mask mandate for public spaces implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic ended on March 15, 2022.

During a media update Thursday, Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said multiple layers of personal protection, including masks and updated vaccination, will be needed to weather the respiratory virus season and reduce strain on hospitals.

"Although no individual layer of protection is perfect, when used consistently and together, vaccine plus layers can provide excellent protection against COVID-19 as well as other infectious diseases we may encounter," Tam said.

Epidemiologist Cynthia Carr says mask-wearing is an effective tool to help curb the spread of illness.

“We really need to continue to learn and involve our thinking about how to act during seasons of higher rates of illnesses that are circulating,” she said. “Masks in other areas of the world are very common. It might be related to pollution, it may be related to spread of viruses or illness, but it's very normalized. And it's very effective. And that's certainly where we need to go.

“We cannot just quickly forget, lessons learned from the past, that are not going to be in our favour moving forward.”

-with files from CTV’s Megan DeLaire

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