Manitoba Public Insurance building in Winnipeg to become drive-thru coronavirus testing site

Manitoba Public Insurance will leave one of its buildings Thursday so the province can transform it into a drive-thru testing site for the novel coronavirus.

As of Thursday, MPI employees will vacate their service centre at 15 Barnes St. at the corner of Bison Drive.

The location was chosen because it’s close to the Victoria General Hospital.

In a release, MPI said all remaining customer appointments scheduled at the location will be cancelled and impacted customers will be contacted directly and advised of alternative options.

“We’re all doing our part to flatten the COVID-19 curve and assist where we can,” MPI’s president and CEO Ben Graham said in a release.

“Our facility meets all health criteria and is located in the heart of the greatest testing volumes.”

The public insurer says affected MPI staff be relocated to other locations or allowed to work from home where possible.

As of Thursday morning, there were 17 presumed and confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the province.

One of those cases has been hospitalized in stable condition with mild symptoms, health officials said Thursday.

Like the other testing centres in Manitoba, the one at the MPI centre will operate on a referral basis, with Manitobans required to call Health Links-Info Sante for screening to determine whether they should be tested.

“I want to thank MPI for their community leadership and cooperation with this effort,” Crown Services Minister Jeff Wharton said in the MPI release.

“These are challenging times, but we are all in this together and will overcome this challenge stronger than ever before.”

The province hasn’t yet said exactly when the new testing site will open, but Health Minister Cameron Friesen said Thursday it’s expected to open soon.

There are currently four other testing sites in Winnipeg, as well as ones in Brandon, Thompson, Selkirk, Flin Flon and The Pas.

On Thursday the province announced another testing centre will open in Steinbach Friday.

–With files from Shane Gibson

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