Manitoba has eliminated most COVID-19-related restrictions and health orders, with masks no longer required in public settings other than health care facilities.
However, the University of Manitoba is continuing its mask and vaccine mandate until at least the end of the 2022 winter term.
Vice-provost (teaching and learning) Mark Torchia said he hopes this sends a message that the university feels strongly about supporting its community’s health and safety.
“The university’s […] position is to continue to support the health and safety of the university community and we’re doing that by […] continuing the vaccination mandate and the masking mandate […] regardless of what the province has decided to change from a mandate to a recommendation,” said Torchia.
“I can tell you, we’ve received many positive responses from members across the university community indicating that they’re pleased that the university is continuing with its approach regardless of what the province has decided to do.”
Uzoma Asagwara, NDP MLA for Union Station, said the provincial government’s decision to drop mask and vaccine mandates was done to appease the anti-COVID restriction convoy and noted there was no modelling data provided to support the decision to drop mask and vaccine mandates at that time.
“I think Manitobans would have felt much more secure in the decision to drop the mandates if that decision was also announced with not only the information to substantiate that decision, but also with the government taking measures to make sure that Manitobans have what they need to protect themselves.”
Asagwara said some of these measures include providing Manitobans access to KN95 masks, PCR and rapid tests and information on how to know when one is eligible for COVID-19 treatment in a time-sensitive manner.
“The government really missed a huge opportunity to provide the public with important information and also the tools they need to continue to keep themselves safe as we’re still in this pandemic,” they said.
In a statement, Health Minister Audrey Gordon thanked health-care workers and ordinary Manitobans and said their “commitment, compassion and hard work” made lifting restrictions possible.
“This path forward will be different for all of us, whether we choose to wear masks or not, or how and when we connect with family and friends,” the statement read.
“Let’s be patient, thoughtful and kind to each other as we navigate this new normal together.”
Asagwara said they think the university’s continuation of mask and vaccine mandates reflects the independence that universities have as well as their right to exercise decision-making freely.
“Where institutions like universities make the decision to keep mask protocols in place, to me that shows that they are doing what they can to keep people as healthy as possible,” Asagwara said.
“I certainly respect and appreciate that they’re doing what they need.”