The death of a third Manitoban has been linked to a COVID-19 variant of concern (VOC), as officials announce the province’s highest one day jump in cases of the virus’s more-contagious strains.
Health officials announced two new deaths connected to the novel coronavirus Friday, and say one of the victims, a man in his 70s from the Winnipeg Health region, had been infected with the B.1.1.7 strain, first identified in the United Kingdom.
A top official said stricter public-health orders are under consideration and may be enacted soon, but none had been recommended to the Progressive Conservative government as of Friday.
“We have to look at that balance. For every restriction we put in place, there is a negative consequence to that,” Dr. Jazz Atwal, deputy chief public health officer, said.
“That impact could be … mental-health related. It could be financial-related. It could be related to social well-being. There’s a number of different factors here.”
The other victim is a man in his 50s from the Winnipeg Health region, and their deaths bring the province’s COVID-19 death toll since March 2020 to 964.
Meanwhile health officials added 300 new cases to the province’s list of variants of concern identified since February, bringing that total to 1,201.
Among the newly announced variants of concern are two more cases of the P.1 variant, first identified in Brazil, the province’s third and fourth instances of the highly-contagious strain.
Both of the new P.1 cases were identified Winnipeg, where the vast majority of the province’s 951 VOC cases have been found. The province’s two previously announced P.1 cases had been reported in the Interlake-Eastern Region.
While one of the newly reported P.1 cases is listed as a close contact to a known case, the other is described as “unknown acquisition” on the province’s online portal tracking the variants.
According to provincial data, there are currently 499 active variant cases in Manitoba, including one of the P.1 cases, 243 B.1.17 cases, and 255 the province says are as yet unspecified.
Manitoba has also recorded 20 cases of the B.1.351 variant first found in South Africa, those cases are listed as recovered.
Meanwhile the province is warning about two new possible exposures to the B.1.1.7 variant at Sioux Valley Community Church, on Sioux Valley Dakota Nation at 11 a.m. on April 11, and another at Skownan Hall, on Skownan First Nation on April 12.
Anyone who was at the locations and is now experiencing symptoms should go for testing.
Opposition calls for tougher measures
Health officials also announced 181 new cases of COVID-19 Friday, bringing the province’s total number of cases to 37,069 after two previously announced cases were removed due to data correction.
Manitoba currently has 1,739 active cases of novel coronavirus, according to health data.
Of the new cases, the largest number — 103 — are in the Winnipeg Health region, with 29 in the Northern health region, 21 in the Southern Health, 19 in the Prairie Mountain, and nine reported in the Interlake-Eastern region.
There are now 144 people in hospital as a result of novel coronavirus, and 35 patients in ICU connected to the virus, according to provincial data.
The current five-day COVID-19 test positivity rate is 6.5 per cent provincially and 6.8 per cent in Winnipeg.
Health officials say a previously declared outbreak at Boissevain School in Boissevain has ended.
Laboratory testing numbers show 3,581 tests were completed Thursday, bringing the total number of lab tests completed since early February 2020 to 637,894.
Manitoba reported its highest daily count since January – 261 new cases — and one death linked to the virus Thursday.
The Opposition New Democrats said tougher measures should be imposed right away to avoid a repeat of last fall, when the province was in the grips of a second wave of the pandemic.
“We’re seeing this movie that we watched last year repeat itself,” NDP Leader Wab Kinew said.
The government should release more data on where transmission is occurring, Kinew said, so that new health orders can be aimed at curbing high-risk activities.
`”We need to see the information about where cases are happening in our province.”
–With files from The Canadian Press
Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.
To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus. In some provinces and municipalities across the country, masks or face coverings are now mandatory in indoor public spaces.
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