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Premier Brian Pallister asks Manitobans to volunteer at coronavirus test sites

Manitoba premier Brian Pallister is expected to make a call out for volunteers for the province's Help Next Door MB website Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

Premier Brian Pallister is calling on Manitobans to volunteer at COVID-19 test sites as the province continues to see a significant spike in numbers of the virus.

At a Tuesday morning press conference Brian Pallister said volunteers are needed to help out at testing sites and to perform screening services at health facilities.

“Most of these tasks that we need here are not highly-skilled, permanent civil service needs — they’re surge needs,” Pallister said when asked why the province isn’t looking at hiring to fill the positions instead.

Read more: Coronavirus: Manitoba creates online portal for neighbours to help neighbours

“We have a pandemic right now and so, in the interests of time, and in the interests of taking advantage of the caring nature of Manitobans a bit, we want to access some help quickly.

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“It’s not a time to permanently expand our civil service because of this pandemic.”

Click to play video 'Coronavirus: Manitoba asks whole households to isolate if family member is symptomatic' Coronavirus: Manitoba asks whole households to isolate if family member is symptomatic
Coronavirus: Manitoba asks whole households to isolate if family member is symptomatic – Nov 2, 2020

The premier laid out examples of the jobs they’re hoping to fill with volunteers, including directing traffic at testing sites, checking in and registering those coming in for tests, and doing the initial screening at the sites.

He said other roles are needed in health facilities — using temperature takers as an example — but couldn’t say exactly how many volunteers would be needed.

The request for volunteers was quickly panned by the Manitoba Association of Health Care Professionals.

Read more: Pallister government under fire for Manitoba’s ‘disastrous’ COVID-19 response

“The Premier cut front-line health care staffing to the bone to save money, and now he’s asking Manitobans to volunteer to pick up the slack and put themselves at risk,” said association president, Bob Moroz in a statement to Global News.

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“He should make sure we have enough qualified Allied Health and other professionals and that they’re properly protected and supported, instead of allowing staff shortages and outbreaks in hospitals and personal care homes.”

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The province is asking those willing to help to use the the HelpNextDoorMB website to sign up.

The site was created to connect those who want help with those who are able to help, Pallister said when the site went live back in March.

Provincial health officials announced 103 new cases of the novel coronavirus and five additional deaths from the virus Tuesday.

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The cases bring the total number of lab-confirmed cases in Manitoba to 6,377 as of Monday. Since March 85 Manitobans have died from COVID-19.

Read more: Coronavirus: Help Next Door site sees thousands of users asking for, offering help

Winnipeg moved into the red zone on Manitoba’s pandemic response scale on Monday and the rest of the province was elevated to orange.

That means newly tightened restrictions have forced the closure of restaurants and bars in the capital city except for takeout and delivery. Other measures include limiting capacity at most retail stores to 25 per cent and suspending sports and recreation programming.

Click to play video 'Manitoba considering curfew to help curb coronavirus: Premier Pallister' Manitoba considering curfew to help curb coronavirus: Premier Pallister
Manitoba considering curfew to help curb coronavirus: Premier Pallister – Nov 2, 2020

In the rest of the province, restaurants, bars and stores are limited to half capacity. Public gatherings across the province are capped at five people _ a restriction that was recently implemented in the Winnipeg region only. The orders will be in place for at least two weeks.

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When the Help Next Door MB website was announced March 23 the province had 20 probable and confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Read more: Coronavirus: Manitoba asks whole households to isolate if family member is symptomatic

After going the summer with few or no new cases Manitoba — and Winnipeg particular — has seen a significant increase in recent months with deadly outbreaks in care homes and a deluge of community spread.

There have been 2,029 new infections and 30 deaths in the last eight days alone.

–With files from The Canadian Press

Click to play video 'Coronavirus: Province says lack of PPE in some parts of Manitoba due to ‘lack of communication’' Coronavirus: Province says lack of PPE in some parts of Manitoba due to ‘lack of communication’
Coronavirus: Province says lack of PPE in some parts of Manitoba due to ‘lack of communication’ – Nov 2, 2020

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

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Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus. In some provinces and municipalities across the country, masks or face coverings are now mandatory in indoor public spaces.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.