Public health officials are upping their screening for the coronavirus variant first detected in South Africa six days after the first case was identified in Manitoba.
On Monday, Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin said all COVID-19 tests dating back to the beginning of February will screened for the B1351 coronavirus variant, as well as for the B117 variant, which was first discovered in the United Kingdom.
“This retrospective work is not a typical approach, but we wanted to ensure we had a good understanding of our variants situation here in Manitoba,” Roussin said at a news conference.
“At this point, we don’t anticipate there are significant, immediate risks.”
As of Monday, there are nine cases involving coronavirus variants of concern in the province, including three cases of the B1351 variant.
These strains of the novel coronavirus are more contagious and possibly also more deadly.
“There continues to be a need for us to be on guard. The variants of concern add to that need. We are still at risk,” Roussin said on Monday.
After the first case of a variant of concern was discovered in Manitoba on Feb. 9, public health officials implemented aggressive new rules to keep them contained.
Shortly afterwards, Roussin announced all COVID-19 cases would be screened for the B117 variant.
Then in mid-February, he announced a new definition of a close contact and strict rules for all COVID-19 case contacts.
The province officially lowered the threshold of prolonged contact from 15 minutes to 10 minutes for all cases, not just cases of more transmissible variants.
The government also implemented a firm rule that all members of a household with a confirmed COVID-19 case will be considered close contacts, even if the person who is positive is self-isolating in a different part of the house, Roussin said.
There were also rules announced involving close contacts living in other households and their close contacts.
However, the province isn’t making information public about the cases involving variants of concern.
When the first case involving a variant of concern was announced in Manitoba, information was given about the number of household contacts as well as the origin of the flights the person had boarded before landing in the province. Since then, information has been very limited.
Public health officials have said they will not be providing additional details out of respect and privacy for the individuals involved.
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