Manitoba is extending temporary COVID-19 public health orders by three days.
The province said Tuesday the restrictions, put in place to curb rising case numbers over the May long weekend, will be extended until Saturday.
They were originally set to expire Wednesday.
The restrictions include a ban on gathering with people outside a household and allow for only one person from each household to go into a business, with some exceptions for single parents and those needing a caregiver.
“Our health-care system is facing critical pressures, our health-care workers are strained and our public health orders provide clear direction on how to prevent further spread of this deadly virus,” said Manitoba’s chief public health officer, Dr. Brent Roussin.
“Even if we see case numbers decrease, the hospitalization and ICU numbers are expected to climb in the coming days and weeks which is concerning for all of us.
“It is crucial that Manitobans continue to follow the public orders and significantly limit their close contacts to we can protect our health-care system and the Manitobans that are depending on it.”
Manitoba has had the highest per-capita rate of new COVID-19 infections in Canada this month. Health officials reported 259 new cases Tuesday, down from a peak of 603 last week, and two deaths.
The latest victims include a man in his 30s from the Winnipeg Health region and a woman in her 80s from the Southern Health region linked to the B.1.1.7 strain first identified in the United Kingdom.
Weeks of high daily COVID-19 numbers have stretched Manitoba’s health-care system to the brink. As of Tuesday 23 critically-ill COVID-19 patients have had to be transferred for care in Ontario to protect provincial ICU capacity.
On Tuesday half a dozen doctors called on the Progressive Conservative government to close non-essential businesses and enact a stay-at-home order. The surge of COVID-19 patients and the need to reassign health-care workers have resulted in cancelled surgeries and backlogs in other areas of medical care, they said.
One of the physicians who works in intensive care, Dr. Eric Jacobsohn, said six people have died while waiting for cardiac surgery during the pandemic’s third wave.
Roussin did not rule out stricter public health orders, but said there is little interaction allowed between people under the current rules.
A ban on indoor public gatherings and a 10 per cent limit on capacity at stores have been in place for three weeks. Restaurants have been restricted to takeout and delivery, while gyms and hair salons have had to close. Schools in Winnipeg, Brandon and some other areas have moved to remote learning.
As of Tuesday morning, Manitoba’s ICU beds were filled with 126 patients, including 79 connected to COVID-19, according to provincial health data.
Manitoba’s chief nursing officer, Lanette Siragusa, said with nursing staff redeployments stemming from a further shutdown of surgeries starting Tuesday, the province’s ICU capacity now sits at 146.
She said the province saw 12 COVID-19 patients admitted to ICU on Monday alone.
There are also 314 patients in Manitoba’s hospital’s connected to the virus, health officials said Tuesday.
During a briefing with media earlier in the day Tuesday health officials said Manitoba is also working on deals to send ICU patients to Saskatchewan and North Dakota, and the first patient is expected to arrive in Saskatchewan Wednesday, health officials in that province said.
Ontario health officials have previously said the province can take as many as 20 ICU patents from Manitoba.
Dr. Perry Gray, provincial lead, medical specialist services and chief medical officer with Manitoba Shared Health, couldn’t say exactly how many patients Saskatchewan and North Dakota may be able to take, but he did say it’s likely fewer than Ontario.
Later in the day a Saskatchewan health official said the province could take as many as five Manitoba patients.
Gray also said the province is looking at sending some patients requiring surgery, including cardiac and certain spinal surgeries, out of province for the procedures.
Meanwhile the federal government has announced it will send health workers and other supports to Manitoba, including medical staff through the Canadian Red Cross as well as military help.
It’s also prepared to deploy epidemiologists, lab technicians and other supports.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday Ottawa will send federal workers and is also talking to the Canadian Red Cross about more help from them. The military is already in Manitoba helping with vaccinations in 23 First Nations, but is working with Manitoba to assess additional needs, a military spokesman said.
Federal officials were not quick to explain details of how many and what type of workers are specifically is being offered. Pallister said he thinks a dozen critical care nurses are being deployed first, with the potential for up to 50.
He said Winnipeg hospitals have space to handle more ICU patients, but doesn’t have the staff, so federal workers are needed.
Of the latest cases reported Tuesday, 187 were reported in Winnipeg, 14 were in the Northern health region, 28 were found in the Southern Health region, 15 came from the Prairie Mountain region, and 15 were reported in the Interlake-Eastern region.
The current five-day COVID-19 test positivity rate is 13.8 per cent provincially and 15.9 per cent in Winnipeg.
Meanwhile Manitoba’s total number of confirmed variant of concern cases grew to 9,104 as of Tuesday, according to a provincial online database keeping track of the more contagious strains of the virus.
There are currently 2,651 VOC cases listed as active in Manitoba and 54 deaths have been linked to the strains.
More than 1,200 cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in Manitoba over the long weekend, giving the province the unwelcome distinction of having the highest new infection rate in North America.
Since March 2020, Manitoba has recorded 49,046 COVID-19 cases and 1,035 Manitobans with the virus have died. As of Tuesday, health data shows Manitoba has 4,945 active cases of COVID.
–With files from The Canadian Press
Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.
To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus. In some provinces and municipalities across the country, masks or face coverings are now mandatory in indoor public spaces.
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