Will ‘normal’ March bring relief, or regret?

The Ides of March looms large over Manitoba, as concerns grow related to the provincial government’s latest updates on COVID-19 rules.

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Opinion

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 03/03/2022 (216 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The Ides of March looms large over Manitoba, as concerns grow related to the provincial government’s latest updates on COVID-19 rules.

It had already announced, to the consternation of many, that the wearing of face masks — one of the key tools employed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus that spawned a worldwide pandemic — will no longer be mandatory in public spaces after March 15.

Public unease increased again on Wednesday, when deputy chief provincial public health officer Dr. Jazz Atwal announced that after March 15 — the aforementioned Ides — the province will no longer require isolation for those who test positive for the virus, and that public-health investigations of case origins will also cease.

Those who test positive for COVID-19 will only be “recommended” to isolate, Dr. Atwal said.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Last month, Premier Heather Stefanson staked March 15 as the appropriate time to “give (Manitobans) their lives back.”

These amendments to public-health restrictions follow hard on the heels of the March 1 removal of proof-of vaccination requirements for indoor public spaces such as restaurants, bars and entertainment venues.

The province’s pandemic decision-making has been under intense scrutiny for two years, with critics often describing the response as either too slow or too lax to be effective. With the latest health orders, however, it’s the Stefanson government’s haste that is being questioned, and for good reason.

COVID-19 is by no means in our rear-view mirror. More than 100 positive test results continue to be reported each day, although those numbers are vast underrepresentations of the actual COVID-19 situation because the province does not track the results of rapid tests Manitobans have been instructed to use to check if they have COVID-19.

More than 100 positive test results continue to be reported each day, although those numbers are vast underrepresentations of the actual COVID-19 situation because the province does not track the results of rapid tests Manitobans have been instructed to use to check if they have COVID-19.

Those who have grown sick from its symptoms do, however, continue to occupy the province’s overburdened hospital beds and intensive-care wards. Meanwhile, surgeries and diagnostic procedures continue to be cancelled or delayed, with precious little relief or encouragement being offered by the task force hastily assembled to address them.

Despite the Stefanson government’s abrupt reversal on public-health requirements, many Manitobans and some businesses remain supportive of restrictions — including True North Sports and Entertainment, which owns Canada Life Centre and the hockey teams that play there, the Winnipeg Jets and Manitoba Moose.

After the province removed proof-of-vaccination requirements, True North opted to continue using Manitoba’s vaccination card and QR code for hockey games until April 30, which covers the rest of the regular season for both teams.

JESSICA LEE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Proof of vaccination requirements will continue at Winnipeg Jets games.

Some entertainment venues, including the Park Theatre, have followed suit and will continue requiring proof of vaccination as part of their commitment to the safety of audiences, staff and performers. Other businesses, including many restaurants whose proprietors have grown weary of being the province’s pandemic watchdog, are seemingly relieved to be freed of the chore of checking customers’ vaccination status.

The next step, the removal of the mask mandate and virtually all other remaining restrictions, will represent either increased liberty or deepened peril, depending on one’s pandemic perspective.

The next step, the removal of the mask mandate and virtually all other remaining restrictions, will represent either increased liberty or deepened peril, depending on one’s pandemic perspective.

Last month, Premier Heather Stefanson staked March 15 as the appropriate time to “give (Manitobans) their lives back.” On the same date in 44 B.C., Roman dictator Julius Caesar paid a steep price for letting his guard down prematurely.

As the calendar pages turn toward the day when, encouraged by a government and premier fixated on reclaiming “normal,” increasing numbers of maskless Manitobans are encouraged to gather in numbers in venues where vaccination against COVID-19 is no longer a condition of entry, the stage is set for a definitive few weeks that will determine whether we revel in, or regret, the events of this Ides of March.

MIKE SUDOMA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES Businesses, including many restaurants whose proprietors have grown weary of being the province’s pandemic watchdog, are seemingly relieved to be freed of the chore of checking customers’ vaccination status.
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