Manitoba working to be 1st province to reopen, premier says, but caution and more testing needed

By | April 20, 2020

Manitoba’s premier says he wants Manitoba to be the first province to reopen in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, as the province extends a state of emergency and works to expand testing.

Premier Brian Pallister said he’d like to see Manitoba become the first in the country to bring its economy back online, as long as public safety can be assured and testing capacity increases.

“I don’t know if you’re into acronyms, but I like this one: First In Restoring Safe Services Together. That’s our goal,” Pallister said.

“But, we have to create the safety. That’s where increased testing, that’s where protocols around reopening and so on, are central to our restoration of safe services.”

Pallister made the remarks during a daily briefing on the province’s COVID-19 response, when he announced the extension of the province’s state of emergency for an additional 30 days.

WATCH | Manitoba’s top doctor, premier respond to question about reopening Manitoba’s economy

Dr. Brent Roussin, chief provincial public health officer, and Premier Brian Pallister respond when asked if Manitoba can lead the country in getting up and running again in face of COVID-19 pandemic. 1:28

The province is working with partners in the business community to find ways to get people safely back to work, Pallister said.

“We can only make progress with those two things in tandem,” he said. “Public safety can always, and must always, be our first concern. And only then, when that is addressed effectively, as we’re doing with increased testing and these protocols that we’re developing, can we move forward.”

Increased testing capacity is crucial to any plans to reopen the economy, Pallister said.

The province is working to increase capacity at Cadham Provincial Laboratory to be able to process up to 2,000 tests per day, Pallister said.

“If this works, Manitobans will be the reason — not the only reason, but the key reason — that we’ll be able to be the first in restoring safe services together.”

‘Not the time to take our foot off the brake’: Pallister

Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief provincial public health officer, announced one new COVID-19 death in Manitoba, bringing the total number of deaths in the province to six. 

Roussin also announced one additional case, bringing the province’s total confirmed and probable cases to 254.

The province has had a relatively low number of new cases announced daily for the past several days, which Pallister said could pose danger if Manitobans interpret the numbers as reason to loosen up on social distancing.

“This is not the time to take our foot off the brake. We must remain vigilant,” he said. “We must stick to the fundamentals that have allowed us to be where we are today.”

However, he said the province does appear to be performing well compared to other jurisdictions in Canada.

“The fact is we’re in a marathon and we’re in the lead, or very close to the lead, in terms of the number of cases,” he said. “We’re lower for our size than almost any jurisdiction in the country.”

Latest local news:

The province officially extended the state of emergency in Manitoba as of April 18, meaning it’s now set to expire at 4 p.m. on May 18.

The state of the emergency under the Emergency Measures Act was intitially declared on March 20.

“What we are doing is working, and we must continue doing everything we can to continue flattening the COVID curve,” Pallister said.

The state of emergency allows the government to take emergency action in response to the pandemic, including making public health orders under the Public Health Act.

Right now, orders in place under the act shut down non-essential businesses and limit public gatherings. The orders were extended last week, and are currently set to expire on May 1.

The orders can be terminated or changed at any point during the state of emergency.

The coronavirus has infected more than 35,000 people in Canada, and more than 2.4 million people worldwide.

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