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Here’s how COVID-19 may factor in 2023 in Manitoba

Though it may feel like it is over, the COVID-19 pandemic is still trudging along and did still affect the lives of thousands of Manitobans in 2022.

At the start of the year, skyrocketing cases of the new Omicron variant had already disrupted a lot of holiday plans — and those subvariants are still making the rounds.

“It continues to be highly contagious and transmissible because of its immune evasiveness. People are getting infected repeatedly,” said Dr. Nazeem Muhajarine, Professor of Community Health and Epidemiology at the University of Saskatchewan.

Though the pandemic continues to linger, Canada is arguably in a better position heading into 2023 compared to 2020 and 2021.

“I think we are psychologically, emotionally … past that point of where we were about a year ago,” said Muhajarine.

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Read more:

Coronavirus: A look back at 6 months of pandemic in Manitoba

The problem this year is a combined threat of different respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19, the flu and RSV.

“It is just not only COVID-19 or the virus that causes COVID-19, but also influenza virus, different strains of influenza.”

As of Thursday, the province told Global News that BQ.1 is the dominant subvariant of Omicron in Manitoba. It arose from BA.5, which was widespread in the province this past summer.

Given COVID-19 is an ever-evolving virus that experts say could be around in the years ahead, Winnipeg epidemiologist Cynthia Carr says we won’t want to forget what we’ve learned.

“Key things that we’ve had in our toolboxes that we know work, to make those more normalized again, (include) wearing masks in crowded indoor spaces, continuing the pressure on government, for example, to continue to invest in better indoor air quality solutions.”

“Certainly we cannot forget that we are a highly interconnected society and with more and more people being mobile, travelling, etc., the ongoing opportunity for every virus is there in terms of spread.”

Read more:

Canada will require COVID-19 testing for flights from China as virus surges

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On the topic of travelling, China recently reversed public health measures under its “zero-COVID” strategy that kept the country in isolation for nearly three years and announced this week plans to reissue passports and visas for overseas trips.

This could send many Chinese abroad for the Lunar New Year holiday in January, raising concerns about possible virus spread and the risk of mutations to the virus amid rapid spread.

The federal government will require COVID-19 testing for travellers coming into Canada from China, Hong Kong and Macau.

“I think that a lesson learned is the importance of continuing to devote resources to communication, and keeping people updated, even if it’s not in that urgent day-to-day, number of cases, number of deaths, scenario. People do respond to people that they trust, said Carr.

Canada’s high vaccination rates offer optimism that COVID-19 will one day fade into the background.

“We are making our way out of this pandemic,” said Muhajarine. But he thinks people should continue with caution into the New Year.

“I think caution and planning and not really creating almost a mythological situation that actually COVID has disappeared and you’re not vulnerable.”

— With files from Global’s Rosanna Hempel and Irelyne Lavery

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