Manitoba’s top doctor gives some clarity on new health orders

WINNIPEG — Manitobans were seeking clarity on new health orders restricting household gatherings, during a telephone town hall with two of the province’s top doctors.

On the same day Dr. Brent Roussin, the chief provincial public health officer, announced a crackdown on gatherings and retail shopping, he and Dr. Jazz Atwal, a medical officer of health, fielded questions from Manitobans about the new orders.

Among the new restrictions, which come into effect on Friday, gatherings at private homes are restricted to household members only. It allows exemptions for child care, health care and home care services, tutoring services, construction, repairs, and emergency response services.

READ MORE: ‘We are left with no choice’: Manitoba’s top doctor puts new restrictions on gatherings

During the town hall Thursday evening, Roussin and Atwal clarified this means parents who are separated and have young children who do not live with them are still allowed to visit their children without the risk of being fined.

They said anyone who requires home care or house cleaning can still have those services at their home without the risk of being fined.

“We don’t want to cause harm to people,” Atwal said. “Our message is people need to stay home. What we’re trying to avoid is those social gatherings within homes and having people come for visits.”

The rules also allow for people living by themselves to have one person come to visit.

While the health orders limit household gatherings, outdoor gatherings are still permitted but must be limited to five people or less. Roussin said this means Manitobans can go hunting or ice fishing with friends, as long as that group is smaller than five people, and as long as everyone is following public health guidelines.

“This doesn’t mean you can’t go walk your dog with your family or your neighbour. It doesn’t mean you can’t go cross-country skiing with a friend, but it is outdoors, it is distanced. No one should be going there if they are ill – even mildly ill,” Roussin said.

“We get these beautiful opportunities in the winter to be out, to be active. These orders are not affecting that. So please take advantage of it. Stay healthy, stay active, but we just can’t socialize indoors. We have to keep those group numbers down.”

Despite surging case numbers and deaths in Manitoba, one Manitoban questioned the seriousness of the pandemic during the town hall, claiming the virus was not as deadly as reported.

It was a claim Roussin was quick to dispute.

“In Manitoba right now we have a 1.5 per cent case fatality rate,” Roussin told them, adding that around the world countries are seeing a 1.5 to two per cent case fatality rate.

“Meaning two per cent of people who get (COVID-19) will die.”

He said the COVID-19 virus is multiple times deadlier than the average flu. In recent days, Roussin has been busy combatting misinformation surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.

READ MORE: ‘The dual pandemic’: Manitoba’s top doctor busy debunking disinformation

Roussin told the caller that health care workers can attest to the seriousness of the virus.

“When we say it is a deadly virus, you can hear from the people who are actually there putting themselves at risk caring for the people who have it, and sometimes even actually getting the virus,” he said.

“I can assure Manitobans this is a deadly virus and our health care workers on the front line putting themselves at risk know that.”

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