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Winnipeg councillor calls for mandatory masks on buses

Shane Gibson/Global News

A city councillor is calling for Winnipeg Transit to mandate masks on its buses.

Coun. Jeff Browaty (North Kildonan) said in a statement Monday that wearing non-medical masks or face coverings on city buses should be a must.

“As the province continues to reopen and learns to live with the COVID-19 virus, passenger volumes on urban transit systems like Winnipeg Transit will continue to rise,” he said.

“In terms of listening to the fundamentals of living with the virus, it will become increasingly difficult to maintain physical distancing on buses as people go back to school and back to work.”

Browaty’s comments come in response to the province’s announcement Thursday about back-to-school protocols, which mandate masks on school buses for all students from Grade 5 and up.

Coun. Jeff Browaty
Coun. Jeff Browaty. City of Winnipeg

It will be a challenge, he said, to maintain two metres of physical distancing when buses begin to fill up again with the onset of the school year, so students should have added protection.

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To combat the spread of the coronavirus, Winnipeg Transit currently recommends the use of masks, citing Manitoba Health guidelines, but doesn’t make them mandatory.

Read more: Masks ‘strongly recommended’ but not mandatory in Manitoba’s updated back-to-school plans

Bus drivers are provided with cloth masks as well as operator shields.

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Manitoba’s chief public health officer, Dr. Brent Roussin, said last week that the province’s back-to-school plan, which recommends masks for older students — both in school and on buses — is consistent with federal and provincial guidelines.

“Public Health officials worked closely with Manitoba Education and are confident this plan balances the safety of students with the importance of returning to classroom learning,” Roussin said in a release.

“As always, the simplest and most effective prevention measures are staying home when sick, practising proper hand hygiene, covering your cough, and not sharing items with others.”

Browaty will be offering free masks to bus riders at the City Hall and Concert Hall bus stops downtown at 3 p.m. on Monday afternoon.

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