The province announced the "4-3-2-One Great Summer" reopening path yesterday, providing only vague details regarding Manitoba’s route out of the pandemic — by design, apparently.
Suffice to say that this new plan — it’s a mouthful — is certainly no "Ready. Safe. Grow." approach, and in more ways than one.
As reported, the long-awaited reopening plan tied the easing of restrictions to the province’s vaccination targets, with the ultimate goal a plan to have very few restrictions in place by Labour Day in the fall.
In his comments to media yesterday, Premier Brian Pallister said his government’s plan focuses on four activities that Manitobans value, three summer holiday dates and two public health responsibilities that will still have to be followed.
Essentially, the government tied its plan to vaccination rates, stating that the full Labour Day reopening was dependent upon more than 80 per cent of Manitobans having received their first dose and 75 per cent of citizens having received the second dose at that time.
The first target is to have more than 70 per cent of Manitobans aged 12 and older to have received that first dose, with more than 25 per cent having had a second dose by Canada Day. If that happens, the province said businesses and other facilities will be able to open at 25 per cent capacity.
But as it was unveiled on Thursday, the plan lacked details regarding exactly what kinds of businesses, facilities and sporting events this includes, leaving the province’s business owners without any definite answers.
In its own reopening plan issued last month, the government of British Columbia used three criteria to determine its four-step reopening plan, including coronavirus case counts, the number of hospitalizations and the minimum number of people over 18 with one dose of vaccine. When asked why Manitoba was not following a similar route, Pallister suggested other province that had used hospitalization rates had already been forced to depart from them.
"Everybody’s in a battle against an unprecedented, adversarial opponent. We’ve linked it very specifically to vaccine targets because vaccine levels is one of the absolute key determinants on our progress in beating COVID," Pallister said.
At present, there is no information about how or even if indicators like test positivity rates, hospitalizations and ICU numbers or new case counts will factor into the reopening plan, aside from the premier’s assurance that "we take into consideration a number of those."
As far as reopening campaigns are concerned, the self-congratulatory messaging and premature delivery that characterized the #RestartMB roadmap to recovery last summer was specifically absent here. Last summer’s four-phase plan looks like a detailed blueprint in comparison to the reopening path offered up by Dr. Brent Roussin and the premier yesterday morning.
It’s almost as if they learned a lesson from the previous two attempts to reopen the province. At the very least, this reluctance to offer a more detailed roadmap seems a tacit admission that prior plans did not work out as the government had hoped.
Pallister also said that providing too much detail in the reopening plan could provide "false hope." His stated hope was that the plan as outlined would provide more specific target criteria necessary for reopening, rather than what other provinces had done — providing details on potential freedoms that could be gained, ones that may ultimately have to be walked back if the targets are not met.
From a government point of view, perhaps there is some logic here, with the strategy being that you under promise and over deliver if you want to look like you know what you’re doing, and get Manitobans on side.
Though the province may have more specifics laid out internally, they’re clearly not planning to share them with the public just yet.
While we understand the thinking behind the province’s lack of clarity, we’re not convinced withholding these kinds of details is the correct approach. More information could and likely should be given to Manitobans, who have already weathered the pandemic for 15 months.
Considering what we have already had to live through, most right-thinking Manitobans can accept a realistic take on the next four months, including any plans for the "what ifs."
Besides, people need a bit more than a poorly phrased slogan to hang their hopes upon.