Manitoba

Manitobans urged to stay vigilant, safe as provincial COVID-19 restrictions are scaled back

On the day Manitoba eliminated the COVID-19 proof of vaccination requirement for public places, a provincial doctors group is pleading with people to remain cautious.

The end of restrictions and protections does not mean the end of the pandemic: MD

Massage therapist Laura Barr puts on her mask as she gets ready for work. (Min Dhariwal/CBC)

On the same day Manitoba eliminated the COVID-19 proof of vaccination requirement for public places, a provincial doctors group is pleading with people to remain cautious.

The dangers from COVID-19 are still here, Dr. Kristjan Thompson, president of Doctors Manitoba, said in a news conference on Tuesday.

"COVID is still circulating widely in Manitoba," he said. "I think we're concerned that people are getting the wrong message. There is still, absolutely, a need to continue doing things that will reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 to others."

Thompson, an emergency medicine physician at St. Boniface Hospital in Winnipeg, says he has heard from many patients and other people who are under the impression the pandemic is over simply because the public health orders are being lifted.

"But the end of restrictions and protections does not mean the end of the pandemic," he said, adding "our hospitals are nowhere near back to normal."

Dr. Kristjan Thompson, president of Doctors Manitoba, says he has heard from many people under the impression the pandemic is over simply because public health orders are being lifted. (Doctors Manitoba/Zoom)

Surgeries continue to be cancelled everyday because of the stress being placed on the health-care system with hundreds of COVID-19 patients still needing care, Thompson says.

He also noted that more than half of Manitoba's population have factors that put them at higher risk for severe illness or even death from the virus.Those factors include underlying medical conditions, certain disabilities, pregnancy, obesity, smoking and old age.

"It's so important for Manitobans to be kind, to be caring, to take precautions while the virus is still a threat to so many of us," Thompson said, adding that many risk factors are not immediately apparent, such as a compromised immune system.

Early in the pandemic, data from many jurisdictions indicated COVID-19 was disproportionately hitting Black, Indigenous and people of colour due to structural and systemic barriers, he said

"So, as we find ourselves in this critical transitional stage of the pandemic. Let's work together to protect those around us who could be at increased risk," Thompson said.

"I think we can all agree we should do everything we can to help our friends, our family, our loved ones, our neighbours and even folks we don't know."

Manitoba's new public health orders came into effect Tuesday, removing all remaining proof-of-vaccination requirements for entry to public places. Mask-wearing continues to be required in indoor public spaces until March 15. (Rachel Bergen/CBC)

Doctors Manitoba has launched a website resource, A New COVID Normal?, to help Manitobans understand the current risks, who is most vulnerable, and what everyone can do to help.

It was created based on public health advice and with the input of physicians with a wide variety of expertise, including in infectious diseases, public health, family medicine, critical care, geriatrics, pediatrics, the group said in its release.

Doctors Manitoba is asking the public to continue to stay home when sick, get vaccinated and boosted, and minimize transmission by reconnecting with others gradually — keeping contacts at a reasonable level and gathering in well-ventilated places whenever possible.

Although Manitoba is set to remove the mask mandate on March 15, Doctors Manitoba urges people to continue wearing them afterward whenever around other households or in public places, especially when near anyone who is vulnerable to severe illness from COVID-19.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Darren Bernhardt spent the first dozen years of his journalism career in newspapers, at the Regina Leader-Post then the Saskatoon StarPhoenix. He has been with CBC Manitoba since 2009 and specializes in offbeat and local history stories. He is the author of award-nominated and bestselling The Lesser Known: A History of Oddities from the Heart of the Continent.

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