NDP, Liberals calling for more transparency in reporting COVID-19 cases in Manitoba
Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba's chief provincial public health officer, answers a question about COVID-19 at the Manitoba Legislative Building on August 6, 2020.
WINNIPEG -- The provincial government is facing criticism on the lack of transparency when it comes to identifying where COVID-19 cases are in Manitoba.
On Thursday, provincial health officials announced 30 new cases of COVID-19 in Manitoba, including 18 new cases that are a part of a cluster in Brandon.
Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba's chief public health officer, said there are 28 cases in the cluster altogether, but did not say where this cluster is in Brandon, or if it was related to several COVID-19 cases identified at the Maple Leafs Food processing plant in the city.
This has prompted Manitoba's opposition to call for more transparency.
"I don't think the government did a good accounting of where this outbreak is centred to give confidence to the people of Manitoba," said Manitoba NDP leader Wab Kinew.
"I still think that there is more information that the government should be sharing with the people of Manitoba to help put people at ease."
Kinew said there have been many cases where businesses or unions provide information about COVID-19 cases before provincial health officials do.
He said that practice is a big concern, especially with back-to-school season right around the corner.
"Does that mean that when the fall comes around we are going to be getting updates from individual schools and teachers rather than the provincial government?" he said.
"I think the provincial government should take this time to get their ducks in order and get in the habit in disclosing information proactively, being really transparent about where new cases are coming from, so everyone is confident in the system as we head back to school this fall."
During a press conference on Thursday, Roussin said the province only contacts people who are close contacts to a known COVID-19 case. He said the province would not necessarily always make a public announcement.
"If we are able to trace everyone who we feel was a contact, then we just notify those people – there is no benefit to anyone else," he said, adding, for example, people walking in and out of a store are difficult to trace and if there was a risk of exposure, the province would put a public announcement in that case.
"It's all about the benefit to the public – if we can identify everyone who is a contact and notify them than that is all we will do."
The province recently announced it would be reducing the number of COVID-19 updates to once a week – a move that Manitoba Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont said is concerning as cases continue to rise in the province.
"The fact is we had a huge number of cases go up over the weekend as well, and nobody was even around to talk about (it) – the pandemic isn't taking any long weekends, the pandemic is not taking any time off," he said.
"The fact that they have backed away from it helps communicate the idea that things are safer than they actually are, and I think that's a mistake."