Manitoba's top doctor says politicians who remove masks for photos are not offside

·2 min read

WINNIPEG — It seems Manitoba politicians may not have needed to apologize for recently appearing maskless in pictures at an art gallery event.

Chief public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin says while he doesn't know details of what happened, people are allowed to remove their masks briefly to take photos.

Manitoba requires mask use in all indoor public places under its COVID-19 public health orders.

The orders spell out some exemptions, such as temporarily removing a mask to eat or drink, to give a speech or to receive a service that requires the mask to be off.

Last weekend, three Manitoba cabinet ministers and a Winnipeg city councillor were seen in pictures on social media without masks and standing alongside other people at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.

They later said they were sorry.

"For the most part, that mask should be on. There are brief periods where it's reasonable for it to come off," Roussin said Wednesday.

"If it was simply to remove a mask for the purposes of getting a photograph, and then you put it back on, then ... that's in keeping with advice we've provided."

Health Minister Audrey Gordon and Winnipeg Coun. Markus Chambers have both said they removed their masks while sitting down to eat and stood up briefly to pose for the pictures. Families Minister Rochelle Squires and Sport, Culture and Heritage Minister Cathy Cox were also photographed maskless while standing.

Health officials reported 51 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday and one additional death. Almost half of the new cases came in the southern health region, an area that makes up 15 per cent of the province's population and has low vaccination rates.

The province also said it is preparing to distribute Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines to kids ages five to 11 as early as the end of November, if federal regulators approve the lower age eligibility that Pfizer applied for this week. Children of that age would be given smaller doses, with smaller needles, than what has been supplied to date.

"We have spoken with Pfizer as recently as yesterday," said Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of Manitoba's vaccination effort.

"They haven't provided us with any numbers but are signaling generally that we can expect a large supply to be available fairly quickly after approval occurs."

— With files from CTV Winnipeg

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 20, 2021

Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press

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