WINNIPEG -- Winnipeg’s mayor is asking residents to change how they use public transit as the city grapples with increased COVID-19 case numbers.

During a news conference on Friday, Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman asked Winnipeggers who use Winnipeg Transit to restrict their transit rides to “essential trips only.”

“This is another way to support our community effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19 throughout our city,” he said.

Jay Shaw, the assistant manager of emergency operations for the city, said essential trips include going to work or to get groceries.

“Winnipeg Transit ridership is down to approximately 40 per cent of normal volumes for this time of year, although we know that low ridership numbers help us maintain space on buses for appropriate social distancing,” Shaw said, adding people should not ride buses if they are sick or going for a COVID-19 test.

Shaw said mask use on Winnipeg Transit is approximately 97 per cent but wants the number to be higher. Masks have been mandatory on Winnipeg Transit since August.

In the last seven days, over 1,500 COVID-19 cases were reported in the City of Winnipeg, and Winnipeg has a five-day test positivity rate of 13.7 per cent.

“These are alarming numbers, and I want to once again urge Winnipeggers to stay home,” Bowman said. “Stay home if you don’t have to leave your home right now. Now is not the time to go out unless you need to.”