With the arrival of the omicron variant, the Covid crisis is getting much worse in Manitoba, Canada, and everywhere. I have a lot of confidence in Manitoba’s Public Health professionals, but I fear they might be making a mistake. Or perhaps Manitoba’s political leaders are not taking their advice. I hope my fears are misplaced.
Recently, a number of intensive care physicians in Manitoba begged the province to impose stricter restrictions on Manitoba in order to establish a “circuit breaker” for the spread of the omicron virus. The same thing happened during the 3rd wave of the pandemic they proved to be right. Shortly after that, the province had to send 57 patients from Manitoba’s Intensive Care units to Ontario and Saskatchewan. Those physicians were right; Manitoba’s public health team were wrong. Are we going to experience the same thing again? If so things will be much more challenging than last time as there is a good chance that those two provinces will not be able to help as this time Manitoba is going through the 4th wave at about the same time as them. As Dr. Roussin has said over and over again, “We can’t afford to get this wrong.”
Some have said Manitoba is relying too much on the number of admissions to hospitals, because those admissions typically rise 10 days or so after the virus hits. The second problem is this time with omicron the virus is spreading so rapidly cannot Manitoba wait for the proper numbers to be given? This what Carol Sander of the Winnipeg Free Press reported,
“Public health officials and Premier Heather Stefanson said this week they’re keeping a close eye on ICU admissions and hospitalizations before ordering a potential lockdown or other ramped-up measures to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Even if ICUs aren’t overwhelmed, vital services Manitobans need in their daily lives will likely be disrupted by Omicron, said virologist Jason Kindrachuk.
The normally reserved University of Manitoba medical microbiologist raised the alarm Thursday about the impact of many essential service workers — from pharmacy, grocery, transit and health to protective services — catching the virus.
What happens if a significant proportion of your work staff are all sick at the same time and unable to work? That now has an impact not only on your operations but also on the ability for people to get the goods and services they need,” said Kindrachuk.
Those things are crucially important for us to consider.”
Dr. Kindrachuk, from the University of Manitoba, made another very important point:
“We have to appreciate health-care capacity and the importance of preserving that, but we also have to look at other aspects and appreciate that we’re all interconnected.”
We all know how vitally important it is to protect our health care system. That is inarguable. But there are other very important “systems” that also need protection. For example, many systems such as the police system, the educational system, the fire protection system, among many others could fail if too many of the people who work in those systems get sick and can’t work. We must not forget that while concentrating solely on the health care system. Because the new variant spreads so fast, we might not have time to make the necessary adjustments such as unwelcome, but perhaps necessary, further restrictions on the movement of people.
The NDP in Manitoba have been criticizing the province for being too slow to react, at the same time as the base of the Conservative Party is likely telling it the restrictions are already too onerous and not necessary. This is how Sanders described the issue:
“By waiting to see if ICU admissions rise before imposing more restrictions, the Progressive Conservative government is “rolling the dice with Manitobans’ lives,” said NDP house leader Nahanni Fontaine. Why wait until we get to the point where we’re goinng to have to contemplate sending people out of province? the MLA said.”.
During the third wave of the pandemic, overwhelmed Manitoba ICUs had to send 57 pandemic patients out of province for care. Now that neighbouring provinces are struggling with hospitalizations, that may not be an option.
“Ontario is in their own mess,” Fontaine said. “The reality is that there are consequences to sitting on the fence and doing nothing until the last minute — and the consequences are Manitobans’ lives.”
Who is right? A lot hangs on it. Another outside expert seems to be siding with the NDP on this issue. He is an outspoken law and public health Prof. Amir Attaran in Ottawa and this is what he said,
“Given Manitoba’s ICU capacity, soaring COVID-19 cases and unvaccinated pockets of the population, Attaran estimates the province will run out of critical care capacity early next week. Manitoba can’t count on outside help this time with the super-infectious Omicron wave hitting most of Canada right now, he added. “Every province, very soon, will be slammed for ICU beds,” said Attaran. “Nor can Manitoba expect the military to bail it out, either. Other provinces will be making the same request… We really are in it together this time.”
Some think the Conservative government is pandering to its base. I don’t believe that. I believe they are listening to their Public Health team of professionals. I trust those professionals. I hope my trust is not misplaced. Dr. Roussin is right—we can’t afford to get it wrong.