WINNIPEG -- The province of Manitoba has retroactively identified the first death linked to a COVID-19 variant of concern. This comes as the province reports 139 new cases identified on Thursday.

The province said this death – a man in his 70s from Winnipeg – was previously reported in the third week of March, but has since been linked to the B.1.1.7. variant.

On Thursday, the province reported 40 new screened or sequence variants of concern cases – including 37 cases of the B.1.1.7. variant. The province said 32 of these cases were identified in Winnipeg, two in the Interlake–Eastern health region, two in the Prairie Mountain Health region, and one from the Southern Health region.

Three variants of concern cases reported in Winnipeg have been uncategorized.

"We are following the impacts of the variant of concern quite closely," Dr. Brent Roussin, the chief provincial public health officer, said during a COVID-19 teleconference on Thursday.

"It is really the severe outcomes that we are concerned about, not necessarily the number of cases."

In total, Manitoba has reported 339 variant of concern cases, including 298 B.1.1.7. cases, 20 B.1.351 cases, and 21 uncategorized cases.

Roussin said the province is screening as many tests that it can for variants. The province completed a total of 2,027 tests on Wednesday.

Roussin said in Winnipeg, roughly about a quarter of COVID-19 cases are testing positive for a variant of concern.

Along with the variant cases, the province reported three more people have died with COVID-19.

The deaths include a woman in her 70s whose death has been linked to the COVID-19 outbreak at the Holy Family Home, along with a man in his 70s and a woman in her 80s. All the deaths occurred in Winnipeg.

This brings the total number of deaths related to COVID-19 in Manitoba to 946.

Of the 139 new COVID-19 cases reported in Manitoba on Thursday, Winnipeg reported the highest spike with 60 cases. The city's five-day test positivity rate jumped slightly to 4.6 per cent.

The Northern Health region reported 55 cases, with 18 cases reported in the Prairie Mountain Health region and six cases reported in the Southern Health region. No new cases were identified in the Interlake-Eastern health region on Thursday.

With Thursday's case numbers hitting the triple digits, along with more variant cases popping up in the province, Roussin said the situation is concerning.

"We need to be safe. We need to practise those fundamentals," he said, adding this is one of the reasons Manitoba's health orders have been extended with some changes to April 30, instead of expiring next Friday.

"We just weren't going to be in a position to further loosen things."

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Roussin said the province is still seeing some community transmission of the virus. He said in the last seven days, there have been around 100 cases public health is not able to link to a case or contact.

"Putting that in perspective from the second wave, that is quite low," he said. "It is still occurring for sure."

Manitoba's five-day test positivity rate remained at 4.8 per cent. The province has seen 34,793 COVID-19 cases, though two were removed from the total due to a data correction.

The province said ongoing reviews have moved 317 cases previously listed as active to recovered. The province said currently there are 1,066 active cases and 32,781 cases listed as recovered.

Of the 141 people in hospital with COVID-19 as of Thursday, the province said 58 people have active cases and the rest of the patients are no longer infectious. There were 33 COVID-19 patients in intensive care as of Thursday, including 13 who have active cases and 20 who are no longer infectious but still need critical care.