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Manitoba’s top doctor says politicians who remove masks for photos are not offside

Click to play video: 'COVID-19: Manitoba health officials speak about vaccine rollout for kids 5-11' COVID-19: Manitoba health officials speak about vaccine rollout for kids 5-11
Dr. Joss Reimer, the medical lead of Manitoba's COVID-19 vaccine task force, said Wednesday that they were preparing for the event that Health Canada approves the COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine for children five to 11 – Oct 20, 2021

It seems Manitoba politicians may not have needed to apologize for recently appearing maskless in pictures at an art gallery event.

Chief public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin says while he doesn’t know details of what happened, people are allowed to remove their masks briefly to take photos.

Read more: Manitoba says 158 health-care workers on unpaid leave over COVID-19 testing

Manitoba requires mask use in all indoor public places under its COVID-19 public health orders.

The orders spell out some exemptions, such as temporarily removing a mask to eat or drink, to give a speech or to receive a service that requires the mask to be off.

Click to play video: 'Manitoba cabinet ministers apologize after indoor, maskless photo surfaces' Manitoba cabinet ministers apologize after indoor, maskless photo surfaces
Manitoba cabinet ministers apologize after indoor, maskless photo surfaces – Oct 18, 2021

Last weekend, three Manitoba cabinet ministers and a Winnipeg city councillor were seen in pictures on social media without masks and standing alongside other people at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.

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They later said they were sorry.

“For the most part, that mask should be on. There are brief periods where it’s reasonable for it to come off,” Roussin said Wednesday.

Read more: City of Winnipeg unveils COVID-19 economic recovery plan

“If it was simply to remove a mask for the purposes of getting a photograph, and then you put it back on, then … that’s in keeping with advice we’ve provided.”

Health Minister Audrey Gordon and Winnipeg Coun. Markus Chambers have both said they removed their masks while sitting down to eat and stood up briefly to pose for the pictures.

Families Minister Rochelle Squires and Sport, Culture and Heritage Minister Cathy Cox were also photographed maskless while standing.

Preparing for possible kids’ vaccine

Health officials reported 51 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday and one additional death.

Almost half of the new cases came in the Southern Health region, an area that makes up 15 per cent of the province’s population and has low vaccination rates.

Read more: Manitoba reports 51 new COVID-19 cases, 1 death

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The province also said it is preparing to distribute Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines to kids ages five to 11 as early as the end of November, if federal regulators approve the lower age eligibility that Pfizer applied for this week.

Children of that age would be given smaller doses, with smaller needles, than what has been supplied to date.

Click to play video: 'Uncertainty lingers as Pfizer awaits Health Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine approval for kids' Uncertainty lingers as Pfizer awaits Health Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine approval for kids
Uncertainty lingers as Pfizer awaits Health Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine approval for kids – Oct 19, 2021

“We have spoken with Pfizer as recently as yesterday,” said Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of Manitoba’s vaccination effort.

“They haven’t provided us with any numbers but are signalling generally that we can expect a large supply to be available fairly quickly after approval occurs.”

Read more: COVID-19 visitor rules keep Winnipeg man away from family for most of his final hours

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Roussin says the province isn’t planning on changing its public health orders surrounding immunization exemptions for kids, should the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine be approved.

That means children under 12 who aren’t vaccinated would still be able to participate in certain activities, even when the vaccine becomes available to them.

–With files from Rosanna Hempel

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

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.

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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, visit our coronavirus page.

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