‘It is here to stay’: Manitoba public health says everyone will likely be exposed to COVID-19 in the coming weeks

Manitoba public health is shifting to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 instead of containing it, saying with the highly transmissible Omicron variant in play, it is likely everyone will be exposed to the virus in the coming weeks.

During a public health update on Wednesday, Dr. Jazz Atwal, the deputy chief provincial public health officer, said COVID-19 is no longer an emerging illness.

“It is here to stay and our ability to contain the virus is limited,” Atwal said.

He said the Omicron variant is highly transmissible – one person may infect 12 to 16 people.

“It is highly likely everyone will be exposed to the virus in the coming weeks,” Atwal said, adding some Manitobans will have immunity from a previous infection or vaccines.

“This will make COVID cases less severe, but the sheer number of cases still has the potential to overwhelm our health-care system which is something we are monitoring closely.”

Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson said the next few weeks will be challenging.

“We must learn to live with this virus,” she said.

“Vaccines work and now more than ever with the Omicron variant circulating thoughout Manitoba, it is crucial that all Manitobans get fully vaccinated, including the third dose when you’re eligible.”

Atwal said given the high transmissibility of the Omicron variant, public health can’t manage cases on an individual level.

“We have to focus on managing the risk at the community level. We have to shift to mitigating the impact of COVID-19 and away from containing the virus,” he said.

“It means we are shifting our approaches to focus our efforts and our resources to best manage the risk.”

He said the best way for people to protect themselves is to get vaccinated and to get their booster shot.

This is a developing story. More details to come.

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