Manitoba

Manitoba NDP leader calling for mandatory masks in the province

Manitoba's opposition leader is calling on the provincial government to implement a mandatory mask rule before students are back in classrooms.

'We need to take more measures to keep people safe across the province,' says Wab Kinew

A man wears a face mask as he browses at an outdoor book store in Montreal. Manitoba NDP leader Wab Kinew is calling on the province to impose mandatory mask rules before students return to the classroom. (The Canadian Press)

Manitoba's opposition leader is calling on the provincial government to implement a mandatory mask rule before students are back in classrooms.

NDP Leader Wab Kinew made the announcement after Manitoba public health officials announced 72 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, shooting past the province's previous record of 42 new cases set Saturday.

"It's certainly bad enough that all these folks who tested positive recently are themselves sick, but if we don't do anything now to arrest that spread, it's going to accelerate right at the time when kids are heading back into the classroom," Kinew told reporters.

"We know there's community spread happening, so we need to take more measures to keep people safe across the province."

Previously, the NDP called for mandatory masks in schools. The province was amenable to that call and announced Wednesday that masks are compulsory for Manitoba students from grades 4 to 12 when they can't physically distance.

Last week, the province says it hasn't ruled out requiring mask use in other public spaces beyond schools, and in fact, made that call for people in the Prairie Mountain Health Region, which saw 45 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday.

Elementary school students wear masks in this August file photo from Texas. Mask use will be mandatory in Manitoba schools for students Grade 4 and up, where physical distancing isn't possible. (LM Otero/Associated Press)

Starting Monday, gathering sizes will be restricted to 10 and face masks will be mandatory in public places in the Prairie Mountain Health region, chief public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin said at a news conference Thursday.

Broadening those rules outside of the health region is a possibility, he said at the time.

"It's certainly on the table. We've increased our messaging on masks over time. Right now we're clearly saying that indoor public places, especially when you can't physically distance, we want Manitobans to wear that mask," Roussin said.

"If you're not sure, if you're out at a retail outlet or a store where you can't be adequately positive you're going to be physically distancing, be wearing a mask."

Kinew said by and large, most people should be wearing them.

"There's always going to be the exemption for people with health reasons who may not be able to wear a mask, but for those of us who can … we should start wearing masks now."

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