Manitoba considers border, airport checkpoints as more COVID-19 cases linked to non-essential travel

Manitoba is looking at bringing back checkpoints to provide COVID-19 information at highway borders and introducing them at airports, as it sees more cases of the illness linked to non-essential travel.

That includes Manitoba’s first case of the highly contagious P1 variant that officials announced on Thursday, acting deputy chief public health officer Dr. Jazz Atwal said at a Friday news conference.

That person self-isolated when they got back and only had one household member as a close contact, he said.

As coronavirus variants continue to spread in Manitoba, Atwal admonished people not to leave the province when they don’t need to. 

He stopped short of promising to bring back checkpoints providing information about quarantine requirements at highway borders or introduce them for interprovincial travellers arriving at Winnipeg’s Richardson International Airport, but said the province is considering those moves.

“When we come to a decision on where we want to go with this, that will be presented to everyone,” Atwal said.

More information about what Manitoba’s next public health orders will include is expected to be released early next week, he said.

Meanwhile, Ontario announced a new set of pandemic restrictions on Friday that included setting up checkpoints along its interprovincial borders with Manitoba and Quebec to curb unnecessary travel.

Ontario Solicitor General Sylvia Jones said that province plans to turn back any incoming travellers who don’t meet a list of exceptions.

COVID-19 a ‘nasty souvenir’ for travellers: Atwal

The Manitoban who brought home the P1 variant wasn’t the only person to leave the province for non-essential reasons and contract the coronavirus along the way, Atwal said.

One of the province’s clusters of the B117 strain — the variant first identified in the U.K. — led to dozens of people self-isolating and has so far infected six people, including one who ended up in intensive care.

It started with someone who travelled outside Manitoba for non-essential reasons, Atwal said.

“People are travelling to gather with friends and families. Then they come home with a nasty souvenir from their travels: COVID-19,” Atwal said.

As of Friday, 38 of Manitoba’s known 704 variant cases were directly linked to travel, the province’s online dashboard says.

And as the more contagious strains take hold in Ontario and Saskatchewan, Atwal urged Manitobans not to leave the province — and to follow public health rules if they do.

He also cautioned students who may soon be returning from outside Manitoba to self-isolate when they get home, according to the province’s current public health orders.

“We only have to look to the provinces on either side of us to see the impacts of the third wave. We’ve been in this place before. We can see what is coming,” he said.

“The only way we prevent this from spreading in Manitoba, or to Manitoba, is doing our part, self-isolating and getting tested when we arrive in the province.”

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