Doctors Manitoba says Manitobans need to go further than what current public health orders dictate to help ICUs from being overwhelmed by unprecedented COVID-19 caseloads.
In a statement released Wednesday, as provincial health officials announced a record-setting 947 new infections, Doctors Manitoba president Dr. Kristjan Thompson said the Omicron variant is fuelling “rapid community transmission at a level we have not seen before.”
“Our hospitals were already being stretched before Omicron arrived, and if it continues to spread as fast as we are seeing, our ICUs could be overwhelmed within days or weeks,” Thompson said.
“That’s why we are asking Manitobans to help slow the spread of the virus, so we can spread out the impact on the health system.”
Doctors Manitoba, which represents more than 4,000 physicians across the province, has been warning that Manitoba’s health-care system is on the brink for weeks.
On Wednesday, Thompson said adding the more-contagious Omicron variant to the mix means hospital staff are now more likely to get sick and need to take time away from work, just as patient volumes are expected to increase.
“This is creating a ‘perfect storm’ scenario and it’s why physicians are more worried than ever about our health system being overwhelmed,” he said.
Provincial health data shows there were 183 COVID-19 patients in Manitoba hospitals Wednesday, 19 more than had been reported just 24 hours earlier. There were 29 people in ICU as a result of COVID-19, two more than had been reported Tuesday.
Doctors Manitoba says Manitobans need to do more than what’s being asked of them in the latest public health orders.
“The government’s pandemic restrictions really are a minimum, and we are asking Manitobans to go even further to help slow the spread and reduce the risks,” Thompson said.
The province tightened public health restrictions Tuesday, particularly on large gatherings. Many large indoor venues such as gyms, movie theatres and large sporting venues are limited to half capacity.
Indoor and outdoor public gatherings must not exceed 50 per cent of the capacity or 250 people, whichever is fewer, even for those who are fully vaccinated. Liquor sales in restaurants and licensed premises must end at 10 p.m. every day.
But Thompson says Manitobans should further reduce contacts by postponing gatherings with other households or shifting them to virtual. He says Manitobans should also decrease the time they spend in indoor, public places by ordering online, using curbside pickup, or opting for delivery.
Anyone who is ill should stay home, even if symptoms are mild, and employers should re-instate work-from-home arrangements wherever possible, Thompson added.
Manitoba’s chief public health officer said Manitobans need to remain vigilant against the Omicron variant, but didn’t announce plans for stricter public health orders Wednesday.
“New Year’s is coming and we need to do whatever we can to decrease the amount of contacts we have during these next number of weeks,” Dr. Brent Roussin said.
Opposition NDP Leader Wab Kinew said the government needs to bring in stronger public health measures “to counter the unprecedented COVID surge we’re now experiencing in Manitoba.”
“They also need to staff up testing sites, provide families with free rapid tests and make our schools safer for the winter term,” Kinew said in an emailed statement Wednesday.
— with files from The Canadian Press
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