Manitoba’s deputy chief provincial public health officer says additional changes are coming to the province’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Manitoba is in the process of gradually removing pandemic restrictions, having dropped its vaccine card requirements Tuesday, and with mask requirements and all other COVID-19 restrictions slated for removal March 15.
Speaking to media Wednesday afternoon, Dr. Jazz Atwal said the province will be ending its investigations on COVID-19 cases March 15 as well.
“The change means we will no longer be conducting a case investigation, which focuses on finding out where they may have caught or transmitted COVID-19,” he said.
Atwal said the province also plans to drop self-isolation requirement for people who test positive for COVID-19, shifting instead to a public health recommendation.
In addition, the availability of rapid tests will be widespread across Manitoba, with a number of retailers making tests available free of charge — potentially as early as Tuesday evening, but by early next week at the latest.
Atwal said a total of four million tests will be available at Co-op, Loblaws, Shoppers Drug Mart, London Drugs, Rexall, Save On Foods, Sobeys and Walmart locations.
A further 18,000 tests will be available across all Winnipeg Public Library branches.
“Our goal is to ensure these tests are readily available at all locations that are convenient to Manitobans,” he said.
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The change in restrictions, Atwal said, is a combination of Manitobans’ efforts to prevent the spread of the virus and the impact of the Omicron variant.
“All the sacrifices Manitobans made in relation to masking , distancing, following the orders, messaging testing, taking that vaccine — all of that enables us to be be in this position where as severe outcomes are diminished,” he said.
“We are able to remove a lot of the orders that are in place in relation to mitigating COVID-19, and as we see, our severe outcomes are decreasing, our ICU numbers are down, our hospitalizations are down, the number of cases being generated are down as well…
“Because of all those things, we need to try to continue our transition to managing COVID-19 like any other virus that impacts one’s health.”
On Wednesday, provincial health officials reported a slight hike in hospitalizations — one more person since Tuesday, bringing the total number of Manitobans being treated for COVID-19 in hospitals to 464.
Two more deaths have also been reported..