'Don't give up,' Manitoba NDP leader pleads with community as Omicron takes hold

Accusing the government of giving up as COVID cases surge, NDP Leader Wab Kinew directs his message to individual Manitobans by asking them to help each other by continuing to follow public health measures.

Continue to follow public health measures in COVID-19 battle, Kinew urges

NDP Leader Wab Kinew says Manitobans must continue the pandemic fight, no matter how tough it's been. (Kevin King/The Canadian Press)

Manitoba NDP Leader Wab Kinew is pleading with Manitobans — and a friend in hospital — to not give up in the face of the surging Omicron variant.

"I heard the premier this week say that Manitobans have to look after themselves," he told reporters Friday, after speaking about the need to support child-care centres.

"The Manitoba that I know is one where Manitobans don't just look after themselves. They look after each other, and that's what Manitobans have been doing for this entire pandemic.

"It makes no sense to me to give up now just because the finish line is in sight."

WATCH | 'Don't give up' on each other, NDP leader says:

'Don't give up' on following pandemic rules, helping each other: Kinew

4 months ago
Duration 1:14
Manitoba NDP Leader Wab Kinew acknowledges the pandemic has been tough, but he is pleading with Manitobans to adhere to the public health orders to keep everyone safe.

Kinew slammed the comments on Wednesday from Premier Heather Stefanson, as public health conceded the rapidly spreading COVID-19 variant leaves Manitoba with no choice but to shift its approach from containing the virus to mitigating the risk.

Stefanson had suggested it is the public — not government — that's responsible for slowing COVID-19's spread.

"This virus is running throughout our community and it's up to Manitobans to look after themselves," the premier said at the time.

At a news conference Thursday, Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba's chief public health officer, said several times the province's new approach to dealing with the pandemic does not equate with giving up. 

However, the NDP leader took Stefanson's comments to mean an abdication of government's responsibilities. 

"My message to Manitobans right now is it still matters what we do," he said on Friday. "It still matters if we can help people like my buddy to get more care from a nurse at the bedside."

Kinew begs hospitalized friend to fight

Kinew's eyes welled up while speaking of a friend who was fighting for his life in an ICU, despite following public health advice and getting vaccinated. 

"The day after he got out —he got the ventilator taken out of him — he was shipped from Health Sciences Centre to a hospital hundreds of kilometres away. He is still fighting for his life right now."

Earlier this week, Shared Health said since October 175 stable patients had been transferred  from one regional health authority to another to make room in hospitals.

Kinew said individual Manitobans haven't stopped following public health orders, getting vaccinated and wearing a mask.

To his "dear buddy in a hospital bed," he offered the same message.

"You probably can't even understand this right now, but please don't give up. We haven't given up on you," Kinew said, his voice wavering.

WATCH | Former premier Brian Pallister's viral moment:

Don’t gather for holidays, Pallister urges

1 year ago
Duration 1:24
“If you don’t think that COVID’s real, right now you’re an idiot,” Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister said as he asked people to avoid holiday gatherings. COVID-19 numbers remain high in the province even after heightened pandemic restrictions were introduced last month.

Manitoba politicians have garnered attention in the past for making an impassioned plea.

Former premier Brian Pallister was praised internationally for his emotional speech in which he called himself the Grinch that stole Christmas for limiting holiday gathering sizes.

On Friday, the governing Tories responded to the allegations they have surrendered to the Omicron variant by stating they are working alongside Manitobans in getting through the pandemic.

"As public health officials have stressed, we must adapt our response as the virus itself changes. Given the Omicron variant is highly transmissible and has a shorter incubation period, we must focus our efforts on mitigating its spread and protecting our health system. As such, restrictions remain in place to limit gathering sizes and in various indoor settings where the risk of transmission is high," the premier's office said in a statement.

Speeding up foreign nurse accreditation 

In another development, the NDP's Malaya Marcelino had harsh words for the government. She said Wednesday it can get as many as 90 internationally educated nurses (IEN) working in Manitoba hospitals in the coming weeks if the accreditation process is sped up, yet it has failed to meet with a licensing body that could help.

The College of Registered Nurses of Manitoba told CBC News it hasn't been able to organize a meeting to discuss the initiative, since the province announced funding last July to help these health-care workers get the required certification.

"I know personally that IEN advocates have been reaching out to speak to members of the government without any success, but I never thought that the colleges of nursing would also be in the same boat."

The government did not respond to a question asking why a meeting hasn't been held.

About 1,360 internationally educated nurses have met basic eligibility criteria to work in the province, the government said.

But the college said it is only aware of seven applicants that meet provincial requirements, and 48 applicants are currently at different stages of registration.

The College of Licensed Practical Nurses of Manitoba did not provide figures.


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