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‘Will keep testing for variants of concern’: Roussin on latest COVID-19 update

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus: Four new COVID-19 deaths, 81 new COVID-19 cases in Manitoba' Coronavirus: Four new COVID-19 deaths, 81 new COVID-19 cases in Manitoba
WATCH: Four new COVID-19 deaths, 81 new COVID-19 cases in Manitoba – Feb 12, 2021

Another four Manitobans have died from the novel coronavirus and the province’s top doc says another 81 people have fallen ill to the virus.

The virus’s latest victims include two men in their 70s from Winnipeg, one man in his 80s from Winnipeg and a man in his 90s linked to the outbreak at Concordia Place Personal Care Home.

Their deaths bring the province’s COVID-19 death toll to 866, said Dr. Brent Roussin, the province’s chief provincial health officer.

Read more: Variant from U.K. could ‘threaten vaccination’ and ‘sweep the world’: expert

There are currently three variants of concern, said Roussin. Those include the B.1.1.7 UK variant, which was found in Winnipeg earlier this week, the B.1.3.5.1 South Africa variant, which has some of the same mutations as the UK variant, and the P1 Brazillian variant.

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All three variants are more infectious than the original COVID-19 virus, he said.

Roussin said if one of the variants gets a foothold in the province, it’s highly likely hospitalizations and deaths would go up.

“If we lose track of the fundamentals like we did in October… if you add the variant into that, the numbers could get much worse.”

Testing for the variant is now being done quickly, he said.

“Our diagnostic testing is what we use to determine if someone is positive with COVID-19 but additional work is required” to identify which variant someone has, said Roussin.

“It’s really a two-step process,” he said. “After screening, gene sequencing is much more complex.”

His comments come after the Winnipeg Free Press reported the B.1.1.7 UK variant that was found in Winnipeg recently wasn’t identified for more than two weeks.

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Manitoba’s new cases include:

  • five cases in Interlake–Eastern health region;
  • 25 cases in the Northern health region;
  • three cases in the Prairie Mountain Health region;
  • 28 cases in the Southern Health–Santé Sud health region; and
  • 20 cases in the Winnipeg health region.

The conference comes as Manitoba further loosened restrictions on Friday, allowing gyms and restaurants to open to 25 per cent capacity.

Read more: Coronavirus: Restaurants, gyms open under loosened health orders, UK variant in Manitoba

The updated public health orders will be in place for three weeks and include:

  • allowing restaurants and licensed premises to reopen at 25 per cent capacity with patron groups limited to members of the same household only;
  • allowing outdoor rinks to reopen for casual sports as well as organized practices and games, with multi-team tournaments not permitted;
  • allowing gyms, fitness centres and yoga studios to reopen at 25 per cent capacity;
  • allowing indoor sporting facilities such as rinks, gymnastic clubs and martial arts studios to reopen at 25 per cent capacity for individual instruction only;
  • allowing places of worship to hold regular religious services if a service does not exceed 10 per cent of usual capacity or 50 people, whichever is lower;
  • allowing self-help groups for persons dealing with addictions or other behaviours to hold meetings at 25 per cent capacity of the premise where meetings take place;
  •  allowing museums, art galleries and libraries to operate at 25 per cent capacity;
  • allowing personal service businesses, such as those providing pedicures, electrolysis, cosmetic application, tanning, tattooing or massage services to reopen at 25 per cent capacity;
  • allowing photographers and videographers to offer services to individual clients or those residing in the same household in addition to providing services at weddings, with the exception of visiting client homes; and
  • allowing the film industry to operate fully with physical distancing and other safety measures in place.

However, numerous restaurants say they will not open, saying the restrictions don’t allow them to open without losing money.

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