Manitoba's Chief Public Health Officer is asking Manitobans to change their holiday plans, limiting them to one gathering this weekend. The doctor says restrictions are very likely to tighten next week.

"Omicron is here rapidly spreading," Roussin says. "We are sending out a very clear message that holiday plans need to change."

Manitoba's Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin says in a Friday morning press conference that 10,000 COVID-19 tests are backlogged. He says the nearly 750 new COVID-19 cases being expected Friday is not a full picture of the COVID-19 situation.


Holiday plans

The doctor is asking people not to attend multiple Christmas gatherings, and to reconsider gathering with people over the age of 60 and those with medical issues. He says orders could change next week, asking Manitobans to prepare to not have large gatherings next month. Roussin says restrictions "very likely" will get tighter.

He says if you have cold symptoms, assume you have omicron and to test or isolate for 10 days.  The doctor says young people with cold symptoms specifically should treat it as if they have omicron.

"Only Manitobans who are symptomatic should be attending our test sites," Roussin says. "If you have mild symptoms in a healthy person you can consider isolating at home without a test.

Looking at hospitalizations, he says "we have to expect that these numbers will climb" due to the high case counts. Roussin says 1.5 per cent of all cases require intensive care hospitalizations. 


Booster vaccines, KN95 masks

Dr. Joss Reimer, the medical lead for the COVID-19 task force, says 87.3 per cent of people have two doses and 45 per cent of 5-11-year-olds have gotten their first dose. Now, some Manitobans will get their third dose sooner.

"Anyone who received their second dose before the end of July will be eligible now of the coming days to get their booster now if they are over the age of 50," Reimer says.

She says pharmacies could be the faster way to get a booster. By Thursday, 18 per cent of Manitobans have gotten a booster shot.

"We must protect each other, our fellow Manitobans, and our healthcare system," Health Minister Audrey Gordon says.

Gordon says KN95 masks, which are currently only offered at Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries liquor marts and casinos, will be available at other locations. She says these places were used because of their popularity during the holidays, but plans are underway to distribute them elsewhere, including community centres. Gordon says her constituency office, as well as many others, will be handing the boxes out.

There were over 550 new cases announced on Thursday. Last Friday, Gordon and Roussin announced stronger restrictions that went into place on Tuesday.

Winnipeggers have also faced long waits for testing at drive-thru sites with many experiencing wait times of four to seven hours, though many have reported under an hour for waiting at different walk-in sites.


With files from Mike Thom and Taylor Brock