Manitoba, Winnipeg partner on dedicated coronavirus testing site for front-line responders

Manitoba health-care workers and first responders will have access to dedicated COVID-19 testing appointments beginning Friday, said the province’s health minister.

Cameron Friesen said Tuesday the initiative includes a partnership with the City of Winnipeg on the creation of a new dedicated drive-up testing site, planned for the parking lot of the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service training academy on McPhillips Street.

Read more: Manitoba records youngest coronavirus death, 270 new cases

“Health-care workers have been on the front line of the fight against COVID-19, frequently placing themselves at greater risk of exposure to the virus in order to provide treatment and care for patients,” said Friesen.

“Expanding access to timely testing recognizes their immeasurable importance to our health system fight against COVID-19.”

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Friesen said the site will be staffed by licensed paramedics who aren’t currently working in the field, and is expected to handle between 40 and 60 tests each weekday.

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The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority will also open up a limited number of appointments specifically for health workers and first responders at the Pembina Highway and St. Mary’s Road sites.

Read more: Manitoba hiring private security to help enforce coronavirus restrictions

“The city identified the importance of prioritizing testing for its first responders and I’m pleased to see the province supporting that request,” said Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman.

“Having access to expedited testing helps ensure our first responders can safely limit time away and return to the front lines to serve those in need of help.”

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Health-care workers and first responders needing a COVID-19 test can book appointments by calling 1-855-268-4318.

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At a press conference later in the day Tuesday Jason Shaw, manager of Winnipeg’s emergency operations centre, said the city also plans to bump up the number of bylaw officers enforcing COVID-19 restriction from five to nine in the coming days.

As provincial health officials announced another 119 COVID-19 cases in Winnipeg and four deaths Tuesday, Bowman called on Winnipeggers to follow health orders and reduce contacts.

Read more: Further restrictions possible as Manitoba businesses find ways to stay open amid lockdowns

“Things are not going in the right direction and we need to redouble our efforts,” said Bowman.

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“Simple message today … stay home, stay home as much as possible. Stay home to protect those who can’t stay home.”

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