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New business closures in Manitoba aimed at slowing COVID-19 spread

Won't affect manufacturers, health-care facilities, grocery stores, government services, banks, gas stations, agricultural operations, liquor stores.

March 31, 2020   by Steve Lambert

WINNIPEG — The Manitoba government is shutting down non-essential businesses as of Wednesday to try to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Salons, spas, bars and many retail stores are to close. Restaurants will be allowed to remain open for takeout and delivery only.

“We take these temporary steps today to protect our most valuable service of all – our health-care system – and to protect our most vulnerable,” Premier Brian Pallister said.

The order follows similar moves in other provinces. The closures do not affect health-care facilities, grocery stores, government services, banks, gas stations, manufacturers, agricultural operations and liquor stores.

The measure is to be in place until at least April 14 and could very well be extended, health officials said.

The government also on Monday reported 24 new cases of COVID-19 for a probable and confirmed total of 96.

One person has died in the province so far and two have recovered.

Dr. Brent Roussin, chief public health officer, said he expects the numbers to continue to grow. To date, Manitoba has not seen sustained community transmission of the novel coronavirus.

“We know that it is coming,” Roussin said. “We are going to see community-based transmission … within the next couple of weeks. We fully expect to see that.”

Some Manitoba health-care workers have expressed concern that they are not getting adequate protection from the virus.

The Manitoba Nurses Union wants its members equipped with more-protective N95 respirator masks when they do nasal swabs on people being tested for COVID-19. So far, they are being given surgical masks.

“There is no two-metre separation. The nurse is right up close (to the patient), so if the patient coughs or sneezes, it happens right in their face,” union president Darlene Jackson said Monday.

A dozen nurses in Alberta have refused to do tests because of worries over masks and, last week, Alberta Health Services and health-worker unions agreed on new standards that include N95 masks if nurses come within two metres of a suspected case.

Health officials in Manitoba said they are following guidelines set by the Public Health Agency of Canada and clinical experts, who say that surgical masks are good enough because a swab is not considered to cause a patient to release particles or droplets into the air.

“We do appreciate that there can be some difference in evidence, but that to us was the best evidence available,” said chief nursing officer Lanette Siragusa.

“We are relying on evidence to guide our decisions.”

 


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