Manitoba’s chief provincial public health officer held his last regularly scheduled COVID-19 briefing as the province continues its transition to a new phase of the pandemic.
Manitoba reported four more COVID-19 deaths on Wednesday as the province’s top doctor delivered what he said was his final regularly scheduled briefing on the pandemic, one day after the last provincial public health restrictions ended.
“This is the last formal COVID-19 briefing, but I can assure Manitobans that our work on this virus is not stopping at this point,” Dr. Brent Roussin said during a virtual news conference on Wednesday.
As of Tuesday, Manitobans no longer are required by law to wear masks at indoor public facilities and services, although some organizations and businesses have chosen to continue to require masks.
The province lifted its proof-of-vaccination requirements for activities like dining in restaurants at the start of the month, although vaccine cards still work for organizations that choose to continue to require vaccination.
Public health officials will continue to monitor COVID-19 indicators across the country and internationally, Roussin said.
Despite the loosening of restrictions, Roussin said the province’s modelling suggests the number of hospitalizations will continue to decline.
Roussin said due to declining demand for testing and vaccines, the province is beginning the process of dismantling its pandemic infrastructure. On March 20, 18 testing sites will close.
Vaccination sites in Morden and Brandon are now closed, and others will follow soon, Roussin said. The province will shift its focus to offering vaccines through clinics, and the supersite at the RBC Convention Centre in Winnipeg will remain open.
The number of people in hospital due to COVID-19 reported on the province’s online dashboard Wednesday was 334, although the province said that a delay meant that the Prairie Mountain Health region data wasn’t included.
That includes 13 people in intensive care units due to the virus, again excluding Prairie Mountain Health numbers.
The deaths bring the province’s total to 1,721.
Manitoba’s five-day test-positivity rate rose slightly, to 15.6 per cent.
The province reported another 245 new cases of COVID-19 confirmed by polymerase chain reacton testing, although that number is an undercount due to limited access to testing.
Labs completed 839 PCR tests on Tuesday.
The update came as Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief provincial public health officer, gave what he said would be his last regular update on the coronavirus.
“We’re definitely at a different place in this pandemic, a time of transition,” he said during a virtual news conference on Wednesday.
Health officials in Manitoba still strongly recommend people wear masks in public.
Roussin warned Manitobans that the virus isn’t gone and will likely remain for a long time.
He urged people to show kindness to others as they navigate the transition out of pandemic restrictions.
“We know that COVID-19 will very likely be part of our lives for years to come, so we can’t wait for COVID-19 to be gone before we start our journey of healing,” he said.
Hospitalizations due to COVID-19 have fallen from the highs seen in late January and early February. On Tuesday, there were 410 people in hospital, and the week before that there were 406.
Health experts have warned the province could see an increase in case numbers once the public health orders end, although any changes could take a couple weeks to materialize.
WATCH | Full news conference on COVID-19 | March 16, 2022: