Omicron subvariant accounts for half of Manitoba cases
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This article was published 20/07/2022 (325 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Manitoba has no plan to bring back a mask requirement in the face of rising BA.5 transmission.
“This fall, we’re once again going to be dealing with some uncertainty. We know… we’re going to see BA.5 cases very likely climbing. How that’s going to translate to severe outcomes is still not known at this point,” said chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin.
The highly contagious Omicron subvariant currently accounts for half of Manitoba’s lab-confirmed and genetically sequenced COVID-19 cases, Roussin said Wednesday. Sequencing shows 50 per cent of cases are BA.5, and that number is expected to climb.
There has been no surge in hospitalizations or deaths — Roussin described hospitalizations as having plateaued — but transmission of the virus is expected to increase, he acknowledged.
BA.5 is better at evading the body’s immune response and has the potential to result in more hospitalizations, Roussin said, but so far provincial modelling doesn’t reflect that.
“The last modelling we have still shows a decline or plateau in our (hospitalization) cases, but again, that modelling doesn’t really take into consideration what we could see with BA.5, so we still need to be aware of that,” Roussin said.
He said public health officials have no plan to reinstate mask mandates, but said Manitobans could see “a return to stronger recommendations” for wearing a mask in indoor public places this fall.
“We can’t take off the table any public health interventions, but there’s certainly none in our plan right now,” Roussin said.
Asked if he believes the public will follow recommendations rather than restrictions, the top doctor said most health advice is by recommendation, not by mandate. He suggested officials have to save province-wide restrictions for when they’re truly necessary so people don’t become “fatigued” by the rules.
“We’re not going to use any coercive means unless absolutely necessary.”
Katie May is a general-assignment reporter for the Free Press.