By Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press
Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba chief public health officer, speaks during the province’s COVID-19 update at the Manitoba legislature in Winnipeg Wednesday, December 16, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods)
WINNIPEG — The Manitoba government says it will soon close some of its COVID-19 vaccination and testing sites and will no longer deliver regular news briefings as case counts continue to drop.
“We’re certainly at a different place in this pandemic, a time of transition,” Dr. Brent Roussin, chief provincial public health officer, said Wednesday.
Manitoba lifted the last of its major public health restrictions on Tuesday. Masks in indoor public places and self-isolation for people who test positive for the virus are no longer required.
The opposition parties have said the province is moving too quickly, especially since it had already stopped accurately tracking new daily case counts.
“If we’re going to live with this virus, we have to live with it and keep monitoring it for outbreaks. The government is going too far to shut things down,” Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont said.
The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 has dropped since the peak of the fourth wave earlier in the winter, but hospitals remain under strain.
The total number of people in intensive care, including non-COVID patients, is still above the pre-pandemic capacity of 72. Thousands of surgeries and diagnostic tests have been postponed to free up beds and staff for pandemic patients.
The Opposition New Democrats said the Progressive Conservative government still has much to answer for about its handling of the pandemic. They called Wednesday for a public inquiry into the death of Krystal Mousseau, a woman who died during one of the pandemic peaks last spring.
Mousseau was in intensive care at a hospital in Brandon at a time when the government was transferring patients out of province to free up beds. She died as she was being taken by ambulance to an airplane that was to take her to Ottawa.
A letter from the regional health authority to Mousseau’s family was shared with the NDP. In it, a health official said the transport team did not have a piece of equipment that would let them constantly monitor Mousseau’s blood pressure so a blood-pressure cuff was used instead.
The letter referred to additional training given later to the company that provided the transport crew, although it did not go into detail.
“We’ve established some serious questions that remain unanswered when it comes to the death of Krystal Mousseau, and … one of the venues in which we could answer these questions is by calling an inquiry,” NDP Leader Wab Kinew said.
Premier Heather Stefanson said she had not seen the letter from the health authority and urged Kinew to table it in the legislature.
Manitoba’s chief medical examiner has rejected calls to conduct an inquest into the death.