As Manitoba struggles to manage the country’s highest per capita COVID-19 infection rate, Premier Brian Pallister defends his government’s handling of the pandemic.
Pallister says he stands by his actions to this day, adding that the rise in cases is not isolated in Manitoba, with Saskatchewan, Ontario, New Brunswick and Alberta reporting record one-day increases Saturday.
“It’s got out of hand in the western world,” Pallister said in an interview with TBEN. Rosemary Barton Live aired Sunday morning.
While there is always room for hindsight, the premier said he doesn’t think the province has waited too long to increase public health restrictions prohibiting people from having guests in their homes and businesses to sell non-essential goods.
With the Steinbach health district recording a 40% 10-day COVID-19 test positivity rate on Friday and the region’s Hanover school division switching entirely to distance learning, Pallister attributed the increase in cases to a big demonstration which took place a week ago.
“We gathered around 700 people last weekend and decided that they would have a silly protest and that they would not wear masks or protect themselves. It is also clear that as a direct result of this, the number of COVID cases has been reinforced there, ”he said.
A TBEN News reporter attended the protest and counted around 100 people.
In addition, Dr Brent Roussin, the province’s chief public health officer, told reporters on Friday that he saw no direct link between the outbreak and the COVID-19 cases at this time and that he was too early to tell what the ramifications were.
A spokesperson for the Prime Minister’s Office said in an email on Saturday night that Pallister was referring to the type of behavior displayed at the rally – such as not wearing masks, lack of physical distance and not staying home – as contributing to the increase in cases.
The Prime Minister’s comments on the contact tracing also left some questions unanswered.
Pallister told Barton in the interview on Friday that there had been no delay in the province in tracing contacts of people who tested positive for the virus.
“There are currently no tracking and tracing backlogs in our province. And we have hundreds of people that we add to our follow-up to keep this system running, ”he said.
However, TBEN News ran several stories about contact tracing backlogs in Manitoba just 10 days ago which reported delays of several days.
The province declined to say how many contacts its tracers are able to reach in 24 hours, but the target is 80%.
A request for clarification on the Prime Minister’s comments was sent back to his office on Friday and a spokesperson did not respond in time for the publication.
Pallister also told Barton that the number of contacts in each household “has fallen by more than 25 percent” since the last restrictions were put in place.
“We are already starting to see, fortunately, on the contact tracing data that the number of contacts that people have had who contract COVID is declining,” he said.
TBEN News has contacted the province and a spokesperson for the premier’s office said Roussin is being true to the statistic.
The latest round of restrictions came into effect on Nov. 12, when all of Manitoba went to red – or critical – in its pandemic response system.
Non-essential retail stores, gyms, houses of worship, theaters, barber shops and recreation centers have been ordered to close and assembly sizes have been limited to five people under restrictions , which will remain in effect at least until December 11.
The provincial government announced new restrictions on Thursday, ordering retailers that sell essential items to stop selling non-essential items in stores and prohibiting people from receiving anyone from outside their homes into their homes, within a few exceptions.