In an announcement Friday that came as no surprise to anyone paying attention over the past four weeks, Premier Brian Pallister told Manitobans the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic has arrived.
"We've got some tough weeks ahead of us," Pallister said at a news conference, appearing in public for the first time in a week as the number of cases and hospitalizations continued to soar.
The province reported 502 new infections Friday.
"We've learned as we've gone and we've done our very best to strengthen the mechanisms that are at our disposal with some of the toughest enforcement in the country," he said after weeks of ignoring calls from front-line health-care workers, teachers and prominent Manitobans to impose a "circuit-breaker" lockdown.
"Compared to other jurisdictions, we're doing very well. We delayed the advent of the third wave but it's here."
Pallister called out criticism from "Monday-morning quarterbacks" and defended the decision to not impose tough measures sooner, saying Manitoba held off the third wave longer than most provinces.
"Nobody has been able to keep the third wave out," he said, urging Manitobans to pull together and follow health orders to get through the weeks ahead.
"The future is in the hands of Manitobans."
Opposition critics accused Pallister of ignoring a litany of warnings and now "gaslighting" Manitobans into thinking the province did all that it could.
"We don't have a very good premier for these pandemic times," said NDP Leader Wab Kinew, who took Pallister to task for not appearing with chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin Friday evening to announce stricter public-health measures.
"You want to be the leader of the province? If there's a 6 p.m. public-health announcement about new restrictions coming into Manitoba, show up," Kinew told reporters.
"Talk to Manitobans about why this is important. Make the case. Use the office of the premier to make the case to Manitobans about the severity of the moment we're in and why we all need to band together."
Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont agreed, saying Pallister had all kinds of warning.
"He is not competent to run a pandemic emergency response," Lamont said.
"When asked, 'What are you going to do about the third wave' and all he'd do is boast about our low numbers and say we're doing a great job. It's almost as if he's incapable of foresight.
"You have hundreds of doctors and dozens of nurses standing up and screaming. You have the entire Manitoba Teachers' Society pleading to close schools and then he wants to stick his head in the sand and pretend that nobody told him."
After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.