Update from the province, 1:30 p.m.:
Manitobans are advised to contact their local liquor marts and liquor vendors to check if masks are available. Due to overwhelming response, some stores may already have depleted their supply but additional masks will be shipped out over the holidays.
To date, MBLL has distributed 500,000 masks with additional shipments underway. In total, 1.4 million boxes will be available for distribution to locations around the province. Masks will be made available for free this holiday season from Dec. 23, 2021, until Jan. 2, 2022.
The department advises the Arun KN95 masks are good for three years after the production or manufacture date and the masks available at MBLL locations are safe and effective for use. Some boxes may have a printing error which states one year.
Free KN95 masks distributed through Manitoba Liquor Stores disappeared quickly from several locations on Wednesday — but reports that the masks were expired are wrong, says the province of Manitoba.
In a post on his personal Twitter account Wednesday afternoon, Central Services Minister Reg Helwer said boxes of masks would be available at Manitoba Liquor Marts and all Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries-run casinos in Winnipeg as of Thursday.
He added masks would also be available at liquor marts and liquor vendors across the province after Dec. 25.
“Wearing a mask has been shown to be very effective in preventing the spread of COVID,” reads Helwer’s tweet.
“KN95 masks have been shown to be more effective than cloth or procedure masks, as they fit better and provide a higher level of filtration.”
However, liquor stores began distributing the masks — one package per person — to people who asked on Wednesday.
A Global News reporter picked up a box of masks Wednesday and confirmed the masks say they are no longer valid.
A label on the box says “Storage life: Valid for 1 year,” and a printed slip inside the box showed the masks had been produced in May of 2020.
However, the province says the masks are actually good for longer than a year.
“The manufacturer has stated that all KN95 masks are good for three years after the production or manufacture date,” said a provincial spokesperson.
“The box had a printing error which states one year. Information regarding the misprint and shelf life can also be found on the manufacturer’s website.”
Public health officials have said masks may be less effective beyond the expiration date determined by the manufacturer. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended the use of expired masks only under “crisis” shortage situations.
—with files from Shane Gibson