Skip to main content

Manitoba schools to no longer provide notification of COVID-19 close contacts

Manitoba schools will no longer provide close contact notification or letters on individual COVID-19 cases in school, a change that the province says is required due to the emergence of the Omicron variant.

Education Minister Cliff Cullen, along with Dr. Brent Roussin, chief provincial public health officer, made the announcement during a virtual news conference on Thursday.

“We know that the Omicron variant is different, and we’re dealing with a different virus,” Cullen said. “We must shift our case management and how contact tracing occurs.”

“We know COVID is here with us. We know it’s going to be here for the foreseeable future, and we’re going to have to not consider that we’re going to eliminate this virus; we need to find ways to mitigate our risk related to this virus,” Roussin said.

He later added, “We have to adapt to working, learning and living with the COVID that is circulating in our communities at this point.”

According to the province, schools will now provide reports of absenteeism through the regular notification channels to the school community and will monitor staff and student absenteeism and self-reported COVID-19 cases. If there is increased COVID-19 activity based on absenteeism, case counts of operational concerns, public health will investigate and provide recommendations.

If increased COVID-19 transmission is occurring in a school, a period of rapid antigen testing or other preventive measures in school, such as reducing higher-risk activities, may be recommended. If transmission continues to increase, or where COVID-19 cases are affecting school operations, a seven-day period of remote learning for the class, cohort or school could be recommended by public health.

Students or staff who test positive on a PCR test or a rapid antigen test, or suspect they have COVID-19 are required to follow public health isolation rules and are encouraged to notify the school.

Students and staff exposed at school can continue to attend as long as they are asymptomatic, the province said.

“Household close contacts who are exempt from isolation but have a case in their household are encouraged to use rapid tests to monitor for asymptomatic transmission, as household contact remains the highest-risk setting for transmission,” a news release from the province says.

Roussin said the changes may feel like a sudden shift, but the virus has changed dramatically, and as a result, the approach from the province needs to change.

“Omicron is so highly infectious and has a shorter incubation period, that by the time you do this contact tracing, many of the contacts may already be symptomatic," he said.

Cullen said he has full confidence in school divisions to handle the changes to contact tracing.

The province will keep a dashboard of COVID-19 infections and outbreaks that will be updated.

Students return to in-person learning on Jan. 17.


Nello Altomare, the NDP’s education critic, said the province’s announcement lacked details and leave it as the parent’s responsibility to ensure their child does not have COVID-19.

“It would’ve been nice to have seen some support from this government to say we’re going to help you with that, but it seems like we’re on our own,” he said.

Altomare added he knows teachers are working hard to keep their classrooms safe, but said the number of students in a class will continue to make it hard for adequate physical distancing.

“There’s still going to be 27 bodies in there, it’s still going to be a challenge to do that,” he said.

In a statement, Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont said it was disappointing that no new safety measures were announced.

“There are parents who do not want to send their children back and want remote learning. They should have that option, but they don’t,” Lamont wrote. “That is unacceptable.” Top Stories

Tragedy in real time: The Armenian exodus from Nagorno-Karabakh

For the past five days, vehicles laden with refugees have poured into Armenia, fleeing from the crumbling enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh in neighbouring Azerbaijan. In a special report for, journalist Neil Hauer recounts what it's like on the ground in Armenia.

Stay Connected