Manitoba COVID-19 update comes one day after P1 variant identified in province

Manitoba’s acting deputy chief provincial public health officer will provide a COVID-19 update on Friday, one day after the province reported its first case of the highly infectious coronavirus variant P1.

Dr. Jazz Atwal will hold a news conference at 12:30 p.m. CT. CBC Manitoba will live stream that here, and on Facebook, Twitter and CBC Gem.

Health officials on Thursday announced the presence of a third highly contagious coronavirus variant, the P1 strain, in Manitoba. Early research out of Brazil suggests P1 is 2½ times more transmissible than the original COVID-19 strain.

It was detected in a person from the Interlake-Eastern health region and linked to travel.

There were also dozens more cases of the B117 variant, a handful of the B1351 variant and three additional variant cases in the north reported Thursday, bringing the total variant caseload in the province to 647.

Two people in Manitoba have died due to variant infections.

Provincial officials also announced Thursday they are shifting their approach to vaccination rollout, focusing on communities with the highest risk of COVID-19 transmission.

The expanded eligibility includes all residents 18 or older and people with “front-line, public-facing roles” such as teachers working in the communities considered at risk. 

Police officers and firefighters in Manitoba will also soon be eligible for COVID-19 vaccines, regardless of age. Currently, the provincial rollout is aimed at those aged 59 and up in the general community and 39-plus for First Nations people.

Officials will announce next Wednesday which communities, and which specific professions, will be eligible for priority vaccination, a provincial news release said.

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