Manitoba’s top doctor to give COVID-19 update

Dr. Brent Roussin will give the latest details on COVID-19 in the province on Thursday afternoon, a day after announcing that a vaccine against the illness could be in the arms of roughly 900 Manitoba health-care workers as early as next week.

CBC News will live stream the news conference here at 12:30 p.m.

Roussin, Manitoba’s chief public health officer, and Premier Brian Pallister said at a Wednesday news conference that Manitoba’s first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, set to arrive in the province next week, will be reserved for health-care workers in critical care units.

The initial 1,950 doses of the two-dose vaccine, approved by Health Canada on Wednesday, will be enough to immunize roughly 900 people against the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, they said.

More shipments are expected to arrive in the province later this month or early next, Roussin said.

By the end of March, he expects the province will have received enough doses — of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, and one from Moderna that’s still being reviewed by Health Canada — to vaccinate roughly 100,000 Manitobans, or about seven per cent of the province’s population.

At the same news conference, Pallister called out a southeastern Manitoba reeve for denying the pandemic’s existence, mistaking COVID-19 for influenza and questioning the efficacy of vaccines. The premier likened Rural Municipality of La Broquerie Reeve Lewis Weiss’s comments to those made by people who believe the Earth is flat.

Meanwhile, Roussin made the second-highest one-day COVID-19 death toll announcement on Wednesday, as the total number of people in Manitoba who have died because of the illness rose by 18. More than half of those fatalities were linked to outbreaks at hospitals or personal care homes, officials said.

Later Wednesday, a Canadian Armed Forces plane landed on Shamattawa First Nation with additional medics and rangers to help with the remote community’s COVID-19 outbreak.

Shamattawa Chief Eric Redhead said roughly 25 per cent of the community’s 1,300 people have tested positive for the illness. As of Wednesday, 48 people had been removed from the community to isolate in Winnipeg, said a statement from Indigenous Services Canada.

Redhead on Tuesday penned an open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, calling on the federal government to move elders out of the fly-in community about 745 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg.

Earlier this week, Manitoba health officials announced that the province’s latest set of pandemic restrictions will mostly stay in place until Jan. 8, officially outlawing holiday gatherings of people from different households.

Pallister said restrictions that took effect last month have worked — but they’re still needed.

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