Only one new case of COVID-19 in Manitoba was announced at during the April 6 provincial government briefing.
Manitoba chief provincial health officer Dr. Brent Roussin said he now recommends mask use by the general public to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, adding that high-grade medical masks should remain for use by health care professionals only.
“It's very important to note that medical grade masks should be in the hands of our health healthcare providers. These should not be used in public,” he said.
“Let's save that supply to the hard working healthcare workers who are at the front line battling this virus.”
Roussin said increased evidence of pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic transmission caused the province to change its advice, reiterating masks are only for protecting others, not for the wearers.
“Remaining consistent has never been our goal,” Roussin said.
“It's to be able to provide the best advice on the information we have at that time.”
Over 13,000 COVID-19 tests have been processed at Winnipeg's Cadham Provincial Laboratory, with 204 confirmed positive tests as of April 6. Eleven people are in hospital with symptoms and 17 people throughout the province have recovered. Two Manitobans have died.
“I don't want [masks] to become a distraction. The real issue is Manitobans need to stay home,” Roussin said.
“Practice physical distancing. If you want to wear one of those masks, there's a growing thought that that may help protect people around you, but not the individual wearing them.”
Manitoba chief nursing officer Lanette Siragusa said officials were working to acquire more protective equipment for front line workers, despite challenges related to worldwide shortages.
“No stone is going to be left unturned. We are fully committed to this,” she said.
“I'm not going to deny that with the border closures and supply disruptions. Every day, we have to deal with something differently. We do want you to know that the top priorities are healthcare providers.”
Roussin had harsh words for anyone not following public health orders. Manitoba has declared a maximum of 10 people at any gathering and with Easter coming up April 12, he reiterated those restrictions apply to religious services and family gatherings.
“We need Manitobans to realize that this is serious,” he said.
“This is, right now, life and death.”