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Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba chief public health officer, says it is too early to start loosening COVID-19 rules immediately, because Manitoba is still emerging from a severe third wave of the pandemic.

JOHN WOODS/The Canadian Press

Manitoba hit a key COVID-19 milestone Monday as the number of people 12 and older and fully vaccinated reached 50 per cent.

The figure for people with at least one dose was just shy of 75 per cent.

The provincial government had set both numbers as targets to be reached by the first weekend in August for further easing of public health orders. The province’s top doctor said it was encouraging to see the targets met roughly four weeks early.

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“We are trending towards a post-pandemic Manitoba,” Dr. Brent Roussin, chief public health officer, said Monday.

“We are heading to a place where we are going to have public health recommendations but not restrictions.”

It is too early to start loosening rules immediately, Roussin said, because Manitoba is still emerging from a severe third wave of the pandemic.

While daily case counts have dropped – there were 65 new cases and one death reported Monday – there were still dozens of people in intensive care, including six who had been sent to Ontario to free up bed space.

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Current public health orders forbid most indoor social gatherings and cap outdoor get-togethers at 25 people. Stores are under strict capacity limits and museums, libraries and casinos remain closed.

The government also released data that shows people of colour had exponentially higher rates of infection than white people during the third wave in the spring.

Dr. Marcia Anderson, medical lead of the province’s pandemic response team, said there were a number of probable contributing factors, including more crowded housing

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“These could be due to differences in housing status, income status, occupational risks, underlying chronic disease rates or other different experiences,” Anderson said.

Aside from addressing housing and income inequality over the long term, the government should in the future consider prioritizing persons of colour for vaccination, Anderson said.

Manitoba’s vaccines were rolled out primarily by age category, starting with older people.

First Nations persons, and later Inuit and Metis people, were prioritized by lowering age groups eligible for a vaccine by 20 years. When the general public 60 and over was given the green light to get a vaccine in early April, for example, First Nations persons 40 and older became eligible.

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