Opposition parties slam Manitoba government over COVID-19 response, wait times
WINNIPEG -- Manitoba’s opposition parties slammed the government Friday over its COVID-19 response.
It comes as people continue to report long waits for tests and results.
The government’s promising improvements but critics are wondering why it took so long to act.
New sampling sites will soon be opening in Winnipeg and capacity will be expanded at an existing site on Pembina Highway. By Saturday, the province said the site alone will be able to collect an additional 240 samples.
Winnipeg will also soon be getting additional mobile COVID-19 sampling sites, like the one currently located on Portage Avenue.
The Manitoba government said by Tuesday, a new drive-thru testing site will open at 1066 Nairn Ave. with immediate capacity to perform up to 200 tests per day, ramping up to 400 tests a day by Oct.15.
Still, the opposition NDP continues to flag flaws in the government’s response, including wait times for information from Health Links. Further complicating matters, the system went down for more than three hours Thursday night meaning Manitobans weren’t able to phone to access important COVID-19 information.
“What, if anything, is the minister doing to fix the problems with Health Links and why hasn’t he added the necessary capacity to meet this challenge,” NDP health critic Uzoma Asagwara asked Friday during question period.
The Progressive Conservative government said Health Links went down due to a larger internet outage, which was fixed and it’s now back up and running.
On the issue of testing, some Manitobans have reported waiting up to seven days for results after providing a sample. That’s on top of reports of long waits at sampling sites and people being turned away shortly after they open. In one case, a woman who asked not to be identified, told CTV News she waited four days for results and several hours on Health Links only to be told her sample leaked during transport and she was directed to wait in line for a second test.
Neither Health Minister Cameron Friesen or Premier Brian Pallister were made available to reporters Friday, but Friesen addressed some of the concerns during question period.
“With Winnipeg being placed in the orange designation as part of our pandemic response system there is an increased volume of people that are seeking testing,” said Friesen.
“The government has said, unequivocally, it will seek immediate solutions to expand capacity. It is all hands on deck.”
In a statement to CTV News, a Manitoba government spokesperson said it understands and shares the frustration.
The spokesperson said an increased number of people seeking tests and some technical issues have affected response times.
The Manitoba government said it’s adding sampling sites with longer hours and streamlining specimen collection, transportation and testing.
“Our labs continue to work to address any backlog with a record 3,196 tests completed yesterday,” the spokesperson said. “The majority of individuals (95 per cent) are receiving their results by day three, though we are aware of some results taking five or more days.”
Liberal leader Dougald Lamont laid the blame for increasing case counts on the province’s “aggressive reopening plan.”
He said the government hasn’t done enough to prepare.
“So they weren’t ready for school, they weren’t ready for seniors and they weren’t ready for a second wave and now we’re all paying for it,” said Lamont. “It’s an absolute disgrace.”