Stricter quarantine rules are coming to Manitoba’s Southern Health district in an effort to curb what officials say is increasing rates of community transmission in the region.
Under the new rules, those living with a close contact and anyone living in the region showing symptoms — even if they have no known COVID-19 exposure — will now be required to self-isolate.
“We’re seeing rates of infection that are really high in that region,” deputy chief public health officer Dr. Jazz Atwal said Tuesday.
“Disproportionately, the cases are there. Disproportionately, we’re seeing hospitalizations coming from southern health.”
Atwal said the new rules, which take effect immediately, won’t apply to anyone in the region who is fully vaccinated or who has been infected with the virus within the last six months.
Designated workers who aren’t fully vaccinated but are taking part in regular rapid testing are also exempt from the new self-isolation rules, Atwal added.
Household members in the rest of the province will continue to not have to self-isolate in such cases unless they themselves show symptoms.
The Southern Health region currently has the highest number of active cases in Manitoba, despite making up only about 15 per cent of the province’s total population.
Health data shows 258 of the province’s 928 active cases come from Southern Health.
It also accounted for seven of the nine deaths reported since Friday, and 161 of the 479 new cases in that time.
Meanwhile, the area also has the lowest vaccination rate of Manitoba’s five health regions.
While there are localized outbreaks in other areas, including some isolated communities in the north, the southern region is seeing general widespread transmission.
“We need to break up as many transmission chains as possible,” Atwal said.
The move comes less than two weeks after the province imposed a 50 per cent capacity limit on retail businesses in the southern region, while leaving the other four regions untouched.
The government has tried to increase vaccination uptake in the southern region and Doctors Manitoba has held telephone town halls in the area to answer questions from people who are hesitant or opposed to the vaccine.
But the region continues to have the lowest rate of people with at least one vaccine dose — 67 per cent compared to the provincial average of almost 86 per cent. In one rural southern district, the rate is 25 per cent.
New cases, outbreaks
Manitoba has been seeing an increasing number of new daily cases reported in recent days.
Health officials reported 130 cases Friday and 132 cases Thursday, the province’s highest single-day total of new COVID-19 cases since mid-June.
The province reported 66 new cases Tuesday, including 24 new infections in both Winnipeg and Southern Health, eight infections in the Prairie Mountain Health region, seven in Northern Health, and three from the Interlake-Eastern Health region.
Ninety new cases were reported Saturday, 114 were reported Sunday and 79 cases were identified Monday. The province’s five-day test positivity rate is 3.9 per cent.
Meanwhile, there are 85 Manitobans reported in hospital due to COVID-19 as of Tuesday morning, with 16 patients requiring intensive care units.
Health officials said an outbreak has been declared at Springs Christian Academy Youville Campus in Winnipeg, which has led to classes to be moved to orange, or restricted, on the province’s pandemic response system.
Outbreaks have been declared over at Chemawawin Cree Nation and Salem Home in Winkler, the province announced Tuesday.
Since March 2020 Manitoba has reported 61,721 COVID-19 cases and 1,224 deaths linked to the virus.
— with files from The Canadian Press
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