Editorial: Don’t let hard work of reducing COVID infections be in vain

As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and nowhere is that more evident than in the way that getting a little lax on physical distancing and other pandemic-related health orders in the early fall led to a winter when the restrictions were the harshest they have been.

As of the day this newspaper came out, it’s been more than 50 weeks since the first positive test for COVID-19 occurred in Manitoba and there have been almost 32,000 more since – an average of about 90 per day. But of course, the cases didn’t occur anything close to evenly. There were very few in the early days of Manitoba’s pandemic, mainly due to the fact that restrictions were tighter than the numbers might have warranted because no one was sure how quickly and extensively the virus would spread. They remained low throughout the summer, then started to grow before exploding in November and December, when there were sometimes more than 500 new cases and as many as 20 or more additional deaths announced per day.

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When Manitoba reported 35 new cases of the virus on the first day of March, it was the lowest daily number since Oct. 4, a period of almost five months. And it took that long despite the fact that many businesses were not allowed to invite customers onto their premises and even those that were were prohibited from selling anything except essential items besides through delivery, for curbside pickup or via online platforms. Obviously, once COViD-19 starts to spread uncontrollably, getting it back under control can be a months-long process.

Manitobans now know what sort of rules they’ll be operating under until close to the end of March. Obviously, the new set of public health orders that take effect March 5 are not as restrictive as those currently in place, since the spread of the virus no longer mandates as many freedoms being curtailed in the name of ensuring that the health care system remains capable of providing services to everyone with the virus who needs it alongside everyone with any other kind of health problem or emergency. But that doesn’t mean we should all party like it’s the summer of 2020, either. The government and public health officials know all too well know how quickly things can get out of hand and there’s no reason to believe that if they saw signs indicating the province as heading back towards a situation similar to the one we saw in the fall, they wouldn’t want to act faster than they did back then to change the trend earlier and more quickly than was possible over the three-month period that ended when the current public health orders took effect Feb. 12.

It doesn’t feel like spring is on the horizon in Thompson just yet, but it is, and as the weather improves it will be more and more tempting to get together with friends for outdoor gatherings or activities, which are already allowed under the orders we have in place now. The important thing isn’t to avoid the urge to get together no matter what, since we know that socializing is an important part of people’s mental and emotional well-being, but to remember that just because you can do something doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do it smartly. It’s one thing to spend November, December and January living under strict public health restrictions. We don’t want it to become necessary in the seasons where outdoor activities are less bone-chilling than they were for the past few months.

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