Coronavirus Canada Updates: Manitoba wants to prevent COVID spread seen in Ontario without locking down, says Atwal

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Coronavirus Canada Updates: OPH reports 34 new COVID-19 cases and zero deaths Sunday
Coronavirus Canada Updates: OPH reports 34 new COVID-19 cases and zero deaths Sunday

Manitoba won’t go down the same road as Ontario, the province’s acting deputy chief provincial public health officer said Friday.

Stating that our neighbours to the east probably waited too long in their response to the third wave, Dr. Jazz Atwal assured Manitobans the province won’t make the same mistake.

“Ontario, when you look at how the cases went up, they probably waited much too long,” Atwal said during a press conference. “We’re not going to go down that road, I can assure you that. We want to see what we can maintain with the restrictions that are currently in place and likely fine-tune those restrictions to mitigate that potential of increased cases or generating a large third wave.”

Atwal announced 127 new cases on Friday, suggesting that new infections have plateaued over the past few days in the province and are at a “comfortable” place with the number.

“If we could maintain this, or get it a bit lower, I think we are comfortable with the way we are,” he said.

On Monday, Dr. Brent Roussin, the province’s chief provincial public health officer, said new restrictions would be coming before the week’s end. None were handed down on Friday, with Atwal saying more would be coming early next week.

“We want to be very clear: this is up to Manitobans,” Atwal said regarding any potential health order changes. “Manitobans have to step up.

Atwal said public health hasn’t liked what it has seen when it comes to variants of concern. The provincial test positivity rate has soared by nearly 2% in the past two weeks while variants of concern cases in Winnipeg made up 40% of the weekly total in the first week of April.

Public health is still finalizing what changes could come to the current public health orders, which are in place until the end of the month.

“Our goal is to have somewhat of a functioning society where people can still partake in some activities. It’s good for your mental health,” Atwal said. “The option of last resort is to lock down to that degree.”

Earlier in his press conference, Atwal outlined several instances of people thwarting public health orders through private gatherings, such as parties and playdates. He also said the introduction of the P1 (Brazil variant), announced Thursday, came through a person returning from non-essential travel.

Atwal played down the risk of the variant, saying while the person travelled against recommendations, they only had one household contact and self-isolated correctly upon return.

In another instance, Atwal revealed non-essential travel led to people returning with a “nasty souvenir” — six infections, one admission into intensive care, and a slew of people forced into self-isolation.

Seventy-five of Friday’s new cases came in Winnipeg, while there were 29 new cases in Northern Health, 12 in Interlake-Eastern, six in Prairie Mountain and five in Southern Health.

Another 57 new cases of variants of concern were also announced, upping the provincial total to 704, with 315 of those active.

Atwal said the B.1.1.7 variant, first identified in the United Kingdom, is becoming the dominant strain of the coronavirus in the province.

The provincial test positivity rate dropped slightly from 5.3% to 5.1% on Friday, with Winnipeg’s dropping below 5% to 4.9%.

Total active cases of COVID in the province is at 1,551, with 33,309 reported recoveries.

The total COVID-19 caseload in the province is up to 35,815 since last March.

Meanwhile, no new deaths were reported on Friday, with the provincial death toll remaining at 955.

Hospitalizations dropped by a net of seven admissions, while intensive care admissions fell by a net of three.

A total of 1,954 laboratory tests were completed Thursday bringing the total number of lab tests completed since early February 2020 to 615,906.

Two new outbreaks were declared, including one at Middlechurch Personal Care Home in Winnipeg and another at Flin Flon Personal Care Home in Flin Flon. An outbreak has been declared over at Unit B5 at St. Boniface Hospital in Winnipeg.

Public health officials also advised of a possible exposure to the B.1.1.7 variant at the Thompson Walmart between 3:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. on April 6 and the Thompson Safeway between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. on April 10, both located at 300 Mystery Lake Road in Thompson.

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