Manitoba Public Health is shifting to reducing the impact of COVID-19 rather than mitigating it, with the highly permeable Omicron variant at play, making it likely that everyone will be exposed to the virus in the coming weeks.
During a public health update on Wednesday, Deputy Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Jazz Atwal said that COVID-19 is no longer an emerging disease.
“It is here to stay and our ability to contain the virus is limited,” Atwal said.
He said the Omicron variant is highly transmissible – one person can infect 12 to 16 people.
“Everyone is very likely to be exposed to the virus in the coming weeks,” Atwal said, adding some Manitobans would be immune to previous infections or vaccines.
“This will make COVID cases less severe, but the sheer number of cases still has the potential to overwhelm our health care system, which we are monitoring closely.”
Manitoba Premier Heather Stephenson said the next few weeks would be challenging.
“We must learn to live with this virus,” she said.
“Vaccines work and now more than ever with the Omicron version circulating outside Manitoba, it is important that all Manitobans receive a full vaccination, including a third dose when you are eligible.”
Atwal said that given the high transmission potential of the Omron variant, public health cannot manage cases at the individual level.
“We have to focus on managing the risk at the community level. We have to move to reduce the impact of COVID-19 and stay away from the virus,” he said.
“This means we are changing our approach to focus our efforts and our resources to better manage risk.”
He said the best way for people to protect themselves is to get vaccinated and get their booster shot.
This is a developing story. More details to come.