'Puts everybody at risk': Winnipeg doctor speaks out on the dangers of lifting mask mandate

A Winnipeg doctor said the Manitoba government’s decision to lift the mask mandate, “puts everybody at risk.”

“It’s probably not something that needed to be done at this stage,” said Dr. Anand Kumar, an ICU physician and infectious disease specialist.

On Tuesday, Premier Brian Pallister and Dr. Brent Roussin, chief provincial public health officer, announced the province’s latest plans for reopening, which include lifting the province’s mask mandate for indoor public places.

Kumar noted that masks help to protect other people, adding that in particular children under 12, who can’t be vaccinated, need to be protected.

“The best way to protect them is to continue public health measures, particularly masking,” he said.

With Manitoba now moving from public health restrictions to recommendations, it could potentially lead to greater stress on the health-care system – something Kumar notes could be an issue.

“We’ve had a tremendous attrition of acute care here, both in the ICU and on the wards,” he said.

“I think it would be very difficult for us at this stage to ramp up anywhere near as much as we did last winter, never mind the spring. So I think it’s something we have to be very careful about.”

He pointed out that other places, including England and the United States, are starting to see large spikes, not just in COVID-19 cases, but in cases of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).

“Particularly for the children’s hospital, we’re going to have to keep a really close eye out on that,” Kumar said.

Manitoba's latest round of public health orders will take effect at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 7.

Individual businesses will be able to decide whether they want to continue to require staff and customers to wear masks. Masks will still be required in health-care facilities, including hospitals and personal care homes.

- With files from CTV’s Renee Rodgers.