Starting Oct. 31, several Manitoba government employees will need to either be fully vaccinated or be tested for COVID-19 multiple times a week. Indoor mask mandates will also be coming back across Manitoba.
The province announced the measures August 24, with the vaccination guidelines going into effect for all employees who “work with vulnerable populations”. That group includes health care workers like doctors, nurses, support staff and direct care providers, teachers and school staff, child care workers, Manitoba Justice employees and prison guards and other public workers who either work in congregate housing, work with children or who regularly visit places with vaccine mandates. MLAs will also be required to be fully vaccinated.
Mask mandates will also go back into effect for indoor spaces, including schools - no date for when the masks will return has yet been publicly announced.
For government employees who are covered by the new rules, each worker will have to either be fully vaccinated or will need to be tested for COVID-19 - up to three times a week for full time workers - and provide proof of a negative test.
Workers can have either both doses of an approved two-dose COVID-19 vaccine (like AstraZeneca-COVISHIELD, Pfizer or Moderna) or one dose of an approved single dose vaccine, like Janssen/Johnson & Johnson. The first dose will need to be completed by Sept. 7 - the first day of in-school classes for this year - with a second dose needed by Oct. 17, allowing for a two-week period before the final deadline. Workers will need proof of vaccination, likely taking the form of the Manitoba Immunization Card - either the physical card or the online form.
Another change announced is that the province will expand the list of activities, events and places that people can only access when they’re fully vaccinated. Like the return of the mask mandate, no specifics were announced, only that the province will bring new rules into play at a later date.
The changes were announced as a preemptive measure to prepare for a coming fourth wave of COVID-19. Several provinces have experienced a surge in cases in recent weeks, due in large part to the Delta variant.
“By requiring people working with vulnerable populations to get immunized, wear masks and expand the use of vaccine passports, we can protect those most at risk of COVID-19 and avoid lockdown measures that affect everybody,” said Manitoba chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin.
“This is now a pandemic of the unvaccinated and we have to make sure that this does not lead to health effects on others and our health-care system.”
Roussin, as well as other public health officials, also recommended that private businesses should consider vaccine mandates or frequent COVID-19 testing for employees.