Who in Manitoba is stupid enough to take this government’s pandemic advice?
After the events of the past three days, this may surely be the one issue that concerns many people in this province.
As of Friday, there has been a modest but steady increase in the daily total of COVID-19 cases in the province and in Winnipeg. We’re still a long way from where we were at the end of last year, but testing for positivity across the province and in Winnipeg has stubbornly persisted above the 3% target that has typically been used for trigger an escalation of public health restrictions.
At the same time, there has been a notable increase in the number of confirmed cases involving highly contagious variants of COVID-19. There were 18 new cases reported on Monday, an increase of 78% bringing our total to 41.
How has the Progressive Conservative government of Manitoba responded to these disturbing milestones?
As trendlines threatened to begin a slow and inevitable climb back into crisis territory, this government made a startling and somewhat hasty announcement that significant numbers of Manitobans could now congregate indoors without masks. .
The province issued a press release describing what it called “minor changes” to public health orders early Friday afternoon that would take effect as early as Saturday morning. While the language around the changes is unnecessarily complicated, the end result is that now, up to 100 people attending an indoor religious service can do without masks as long as they only sit down with people of their own. own home, move away from other groups and are not singing.
In addition, up to six people from different households can now share the same table in a restaurant or bar, as long as it is outside.
The delay in the announcement, the attempt to portray major changes as “minor” and the lack of advance warning for those most affected are all signs that Prime Minister Brian Pallister was trying to avoid the public review of these changes. And for good reason – they defy logic.
Not that efforts were not made after the fact to explain what had happened.
On Monday, Dr Brent Roussin, the province’s chief public health officer, once again seemed to ring all the right notes.
He acknowledged that it was essential to be cautious about removing restrictions as we are months away from establishing herd immunity through vaccination. Roussin also noted that with the variants posing a significant new threat, it was important to be socially distant and to wear masks.
But when it came to explaining the most recent changes, Roussin quickly changed course and explained that the restrictions were having negative effects on the health of Manitobans as well. He said that a careful easing of restrictions would allow Manitoba to maintain a balance between essential protection and certain personal freedoms.
Most notably, Roussin said the decision to allow up to 100 people inside without masks was defensible. “I don’t think it adds a lot of risk. ”
When it comes to the best doc in the province, it’s getting harder and harder to believe he believes what he says.
Roussin is undoubtedly aware that infectious disease experts here and around the world believe that the use of masks is essential to bring the virus under control during the course of vaccination programs. And that the very things that we currently allow head to head in the best pandemic advice.
“I don’t think it adds a lot of risk. “
– Roussin on the decision to allow up to 100 people inside to do without masks
Ironically, the same day Manitoba announced it was easing restrictions, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a study showing that easing mask and restoration mandates – inside and out outdoors – was directly linked to significant increases in COVID. 19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths.
With everything taken into account, how do you make sense of a decision allowing the faithful to dispense with masks in religious services and increase the number of people allowed to congregate on the patios of restaurants and bars? We can’t because it’s absurd.
If we use the criteria adopted by Roussin, we should only relax the restrictions in situations where we can be sure that the risk of contracting COVID-19 is negligible.
This is not what is happening here.
Certainly the most important thing the government can do right now is to allow as many people as possible to eat safely in restaurants and attend church services while using all best practices. to reduce the risk of infection: hand hygiene, social distancing and – above all – wearing a mask at all times.
Although you need to be maskless to eat in restaurants, you don’t need to be maskless to attend an indoor church service. Removing the mask requirement in churches is a purely political decision, completely devoid of any concern for public health and safety or scientific evidence.
The really disturbing part of this gratuitous disregard for science and common sense is that this isn’t the first time this has happened.
Throughout the pandemic, the Pallister government and its public health officials made poor decisions that went against the best epidemiological evidence available at the time while offering little explanation.
The saving grace is that having seen this show before, most Manitobans are too smart to take the silly advice they are getting right now. Perhaps the government could follow their example and improve.