WINNIPEG - With new coronavirus cases emerging in South Korea, Italy and elsewhere around the world, Manitoba Liberals say the Manitoba Government needs to show they are ready with a plan to ensure Manitobans stay as safe as possible in the likely case that the virus reaches Manitoba.
The virus has been spreading around the world, with 82,000 cases and nearly 3,000 deaths. While it started in China, there have been recent outbreaks in South Korea and Italy, where schools have been closed.
"We don't want to alarm anyone, but we do want to make sure the PCs actually have a plan in place for places it could hit hard, especially First Nations and Personal Care Homes. Telling people to wash their hands and to stock up on groceries is not going to cut it." said Dougald Lamont, Leader of the Manitoba Liberal Party and MLA for St. Boniface.
Manitoba Liberal Health Critic Dr. Jon Gerrard said the PCs need to have specific plans in place for managing a coronavirus outbreak in Manitoba.
Manitoba Liberals are calling on the PCs to release plans specifically to deal with:
Protecting and supporting northern communities, where people living in close quarters could easily catch the virus
Protecting personal care homes, because seniors may be more susceptible to the disease
Assisting individuals on low incomes who face quarantine
Being prepared to crack down on price gouging and hoarding of supplies
Ensuring the Work of Government continues
Setting up a Central Command Centre that can coordinate food and other deliveries
Protecting and Supporting Northern Communities
Manitoba should introduce measures for screening people going to northern communities, for dealing with the coronavirus if it arrives in a northern communities and ensure prior consultation with northern leaders, with First Nation and Métis communities.
Protecting and Ensuring Communications in Personal Care Homes
Special procedures need to be in place to protect residents of personal care homes. The mortality rate for coronavirus is 3.6% for those aged 60-69, 8% for ages 70-79, and 15% for those age 80 and over. This is much higher than the rates for people aged 10 to 49 which are 0.2 to 0.4%.
Current evidence suggests this higher mortality in older people is related, in part, to many having underlying chronic diseases.
Planning for personal care homes must include:
A clear description of measures to be taken in homes to reduce any likelihood of virus transmission to residents
Ensuring open communications, such as internet video links between residents and their families and friends, in the event that either the residents or the family and friends are quarantined
Those on Low Incomes
The Federal Minister of Health has suggested that people have enough food in their home so that, if necessary, can be self-quarantined for 14 days. This will be a challenge for individuals and families on low incomes.
The provincial government must have:
A plan to assure individuals on low incomes have enough nutritious food in their homes to last 14 days in case of quarantine
A plan for housing those who are homeless to reduce any likelihood of the coronavirus infecting individuals in such shelters
A plan for what to do in the event of a coronavirus infection in a homeless shelter
Be Ready to Crack Down on Price-Gouging and Hoarding
There may be people who will take advantage of an epidemic by hoarding and hiking up prices on important goods or supplies - fuel, food, and medical. The government should be prepared to intervene and prosecute.
Keep Government and Business Running
The government should be clear about how the legislature will keep running - not just the Premier and Cabinet, including the possibility of video links to allow MLAs to continue working.
A Communications Command Centre
The provincial government must be prepared to set up a Central Communications Command Centre that can coordinate actions and provide advice to individuals and to businesses in need.
Lamont also said the PCs need to ensure there is enough "surge capacity" built into the system so that there are not sudden shortages. "We're concerned that with the current government's cuts, that it has undermined the health system's ability to deal with a surge in demand, and they need to show that's not the case," said Lamont.