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Manitoba Health Minister Audrey Gordon speaks at the Legislative Building, in Winnipeg, on Jan. 18.David Lipnowski/The Canadian Press

Manitoba’s health minister says the province is prepared to respond if infections and hospitalizations begin to rise again with the lifting of all remaining COVID-19 restrictions.

“If the need be, we have a plan,” Audrey Gordon said. “If we have [a] surge, we have a plan ... and if the numbers continue to take a downward trend, we will continue on the path we have been.”

The provincial mask mandate and other pandemic health orders ended Tuesday. Masks must still be worn by anyone going to a health-care facility.

Travel restrictions to northern Manitoba and isolation requirements for people who test positive for COVID-19 also ended, but it is still recommended they isolate for five days after symptoms start.

The Progressive Conservative government began loosening public health orders last month as key indicators, including hospitalizations, began to drop.

Gordon pointed to a recovery plan which she said ensures hospital capacity if cases surge.

That plan notes that as the province moves from restrictions to recommendations, “it is anticipated that COVID-19 activity will increase and hospital admissions and ICU admission may also rise.”

The plan includes a baseline of 110 adult intensive-care beds, up from the pre-pandemic baseline of 92. There is also capacity to expand that number if needed.

The province is also resuming more elective and non-urgent surgeries.

Dr. Brent Roussin, chief provincial public health officer, said he will continue to provide guidance, but Manitobans can make their own decisions about gathering sizes and masks.

“We know these restrictions have taken a toll on many people’s health and well-being, but we also know that this shift may cause different stress and anxiety for some,” Roussin has said.

“This is a process for everyone to take at their own pace and we need to remember to support each other as it happens.”

The Opposition New Democrats have criticized the government’s handling of the pandemic, including its approach to reopening.

Uzoma Asagwara, the NDP’s health-care critic, said even though restrictions are being lifted, the health-care system is not prepared if there’s a surge.

“The health-care system still lacks the capacity to ensure people can get the health care they need when they need it,” she said.

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