Manitoba's health minister says navigating the pandemic in 2020 has been unlike anything he has experienced in political life ... or life in general.
In a year-end interview, Cameron Friesen says governments around the world have spent most of this year scrambling to try and understand what they were up against and how to approach the COVID-19 virus. He notes how the pandemic has posed enormous challenges for people in general.
"Seniors, business owners, young people trying to pursue a college or university degree, people in high school and grade school; this is leaving an indelible mark on us all and we are really grappling with this thing. But, right now things look a lot brighter than they did even 12 weeks ago."
Friesen admits there was so much unknown about the virus that governments were forced to take drastic action in the early days of the pandemic. He admits some of their decisions didn't go as well as expected, but notes there are areas where they have had some successes.
"You may not hear it every day on the news but when it comes to wait times in Manitoba those new sites and appointment-based tests have virtually eliminated lineups. We've doubled our lab testing then doubled it again and we've doubled our contact tracing as well, so there are some things that people perceive and will say 'this is going better than it was' and that's because we are building better systems."
The province has taken its share of criticism on its handling of the pandemic ranging from its weak COVID-19 health messaging during the summer and its strict health orders to its reluctance to hire more public health nurses to do contact tracing and nasopharyngeal swabs at testing sites.
Friesen says the province has had to reorganize a lot of its systems to deal with the pandemic which has been a real challenge in itself and now they're pivoting those same systems to accommodate a province-wide vaccination program.
"It's going to take a considerable amount of time to receive enough vaccine in Manitoba to be able to get that into the arms of everyone, so it's a balancing act. We're putting in a tremendous effort to get our vaccination strategy in place ... but at the same time we still need to continue to practice the fundamentals because more of this story is yet to be written."