'We are in a bit of a race here': Manitoba reports 46 new B.1.1.7. variant cases, three more COVID-19 deaths
WINNIPEG -- The Province of Manitoba has reported 46 new cases of the B.1.1.7. variant on Friday.
The variant cases include 44 from the Winnipeg health region and two from the Southern Health–Santé Sud health region. This brings the total number of B.1.1.7. variant cases in Manitoba to 109.
These variant cases are sequence positive – which means these are previously reported COVID-19 cases that have been identified as a variant of concern.
"We are seeing higher numbers of the B.1.1.7. variant, we have seen some unknown acquisition of that. We have seen some small clusters related to a school or two," said Dr. Jazz Atwal, the deputy chief provincial public health officer.
Atwal said about 32 per cent of all cases in Manitoba right now are testing positive for a variant of concern. He said the B.1.1.7. variant is more communicable by about 50 per cent, pointing to studies that show this variant can pose a higher risk of hospitalization and death.
"We understand the higher risk of communicability. We do understand that there will be a higher burden on our health-care system if we start to generate a lot more cases, but it is up to Manitobans," Atwal said.
"Manitobans still need to adhere to handwashing, staying at home when you are sick, adhering to the orders, coughing in your sleeve – it is going to be up to all of us to keep these numbers down."
No new cases of the B.1.351 variant were reported, leaving the total at 14. The province said these cases bring the total number of variant cases in Manitoba to 123.
MANITOBA 'COMFORTABLE' WITH LEVEL OF REOPENING AMID VARIANT SPIKE
He said Manitoba has relatively low variant case numbers compared to the rest of Canada, which puts the province in a good spot.
Even with the spike in variant cases, Atwal said the province is comfortable with the level of reopening Manitoba is at right now. He said public health will be reassessing the orders daily and weekly to see if orders will be eased further, remain the same, or become more restrictive.
Manitoba's current health orders are set to expire on April 15.
Atwal said as of Friday, there were 58 people in hospital with active COVID-19 cases and 12 people in ICU with active COVID-19 cases.
MANITOBA 'IN A BIT OF A RACE' BETWEEN VACCINATIONS AND VARIANTS
"Obviously, things are changing. Things have changed in the past couple weeks as well in the number of variant cases that have been created in Manitoba and we are going to continue to see that rise," Atwal said.
"I think that is expected and we are in a bit of a race here."
He said at some point the variant of concern will become the dominant strain of COVID-19.
He said the more people who get the vaccine should lessen the impact of a variant taking hold.
THREE COVID-19 DEATHS, 116 CASES REPORTED ON FRIDAY
Along with the cases, the province reported three deaths related to COVID-19. The deaths included two men in their 70s – one from the Interlake-Eastern Health Region and one from Winnipeg – and a man in his 60s from the Northern Health Region.
The total number of deaths related to COVID-19 in Manitoba is 932.
The province said 116 new cases were also reported on Friday. This brings the total number of COVID-19 cases in Manitoba to 33,810; however, two cases were removed from the total due to a data correction.
"In general, we're seeing an increase in cases throughout Manitoba," Atwal said. "We knew that would occur with the greater number of interactions people are having."
Friday's cases include 55 cases in the Northern Health Region and 51 cases in Winnipeg.
The Interlake-Eastern Health Region reported two cases, the Prairie Mountain Health Region reported three cases, and the Southern Health–Santé Sud health region reported five cases.
This brings the five-day test positivity rate to 4.4 per cent provincially and 3.6 per cent in Winnipeg.