Manitoba is expected to further loosen COVID-19 restrictions as early as next week after the province hit vaccine milestones tied to its reopening plan Wednesday.
At last word 75.1 per cent of eligible Manitobans 12 and up have received one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and 51.5 per cent of the eligible population have received two shots.
Under Manitoba’s reopening plans announced last month, officials have said a second round of restriction loosening could start if the province hits 75 per cent first dose vaccination and 50 per cent second dose rates by the August long weekend, provided daily case numbers and hospitalization rates are low enough.
On Wednesday Premier Brian Pallister said he expects new public health orders will be announced next week, allowing for at least one incubation period between when orders were last changed in late June.
Pallister had previously said the loosening of restrictions could come before the August long weekend if the targets were hit early.
Current health orders ban most indoor social gatherings and require museums, theatres and casinos to remain closed.
There is no word yet on what changes will be made.
Under the final step of Manitoba’s reopening plan, dubbed 4-3-2-One Great Summer Reopening Path, officials have said businesses, services and facilities will fully open, with some restrictions, if 80 per cent of the eligible population has received one shot and 75 per cent has received two shots by Labour Day.
On Wednesday the province said to reach the Labour Day target roughly 33,000 more first-dose and 100,000 second-dose immunizations must be given, on top of the 180,000 vaccine appointments already booked.
In an attempt to boost immunization and make that milestone, the province is making all of its vaccine super-sites open only for walk-in shots for one day — Wednesday of next week.
Officials say more than 20,000 vaccines will be available including roughly 8,000 Pfizer vaccines earmarked for young people aged 12 to 17.
Manitoba’s daily case numbers have been dropping in recent weeks, and hospitalization numbers have also fallen.
On Tuesday officials announced 36 new cases, the lowest one-day increase in new cases Manitoba has seen since early March. Another 71 new cases and two deaths were announced Wednesday.
But the more-contagious Delta strain, first identified in India continues to spread, and last week officials said the strain has now been found in all five health regions.
According to a provincial online database keeping track of variants, Manitoba has seen 382 cases of the Delta strain as of Wednesday, and at least 28 remain active.
Officials said there were 152 Manitobans hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Wednesday. Of those in hospital as a result of the virus, 38 were in ICU, including five receiving critical care in Ontario.
The five-day COVID-19 test positivity rate is 5.6 per cent provincially and 5.5 per cent in Winnipeg.
–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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