Fed funds available for Manitoba to cut COVID test lines: Trudeau

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OTTAWA — Prime Minister says it’s up to Manitoba to clear long lines at its COVID-19 testing centres — a problem Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman would like to help with.

“Unfortunately, not every province has hit the agreed-to targets that they committed to, in terms of tests per day,” Trudeau told Winnipeg radio station 680 CJOB in a Wednesday morning interview.

“It is up to the provincial government to roll out the resources that we’ve made available to them in the right way, and ask for more if they need it.”

This summer, Trudeau promised billions of dollars for provinces to get through the COVID-19 pandemic, of which $109 million is allocated for Manitoba to spend by spring 2021 to boost its COVID-19 testing capacity to 3,000 tests a day.

While the province hit that mark last week, it has more often fallen short of 2,500 tests a day, despite mounting cases in Winnipeg and remote communities.

The prime minister suggested Wednesday provinces should’ve been more prepared by now.

“We were ready in the spring, which is something I laid out to the premiers many times,” Trudeau said in his radio interview.

Bowman raised the testing backlog in a Tuesday evening call with Trudeau. “They discussed how the government of Canada could work with municipalities, notably on increased testing capacity,” reads a Prime Minister’s Office news release.

Bowman’s office said the mayor would like Winnipeg’s first responders to be prioritized for rapid tests — which Trudeau said is up to provinces.

“The mayor suggested that municipal emergency operation centres could be leveraged across the country, as they have tremendous expertise in a crisis,” Bowman spokesman Jeremy Davis wrote.

The City of Winnipeg’s website says such a centre exists in the basement of the downtown council building, to analyze risks and strategize a response.

The province could not immediately say whether it had received a formal proposal from Bowman.

Meanwhile, Trudeau told local radio he’s concerned by the rising coronavirus case loads in Manitoba, including on First Nations reserves.

“The second wave is extremely exhausting; it’s frustrating for everyone to have to keep going through this,” said the prime minister, who urged people to download the COVID Alert app and practice physical distancing.

Trudeau also said he hopes to keep restrictions on Americans entering Canada until the United States gets its case loads under control. He said he wouldn’t bar Canadian citizens from opting to fly south, because they have a right to do so, even when Ottawa recommends against it.

dylan.robertson@freepress.mb.ca

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