109 new cases of COVID-19, 25 more contagious variants announced in Manitoba

Manitoba public health officials announced 109 new COVID-19 cases and one death Wednesday, as well as more than two dozen cases of highly contagious coronavirus variants.

Another 25 variant cases have been identified, bringing the total so far to 299. One previous variant cases has been removed and is being investigated, the province said.

Twenty-two of the new cases are the B117 variant first detected in the U.K. and three remain uncategorized. 

The majority — 21 — were identified in Winnipeg, and one was in the Prairie Mountain Health region. 

Another variant case was found, but hasn’t yet been categorized, in the Interlake-Eastern Health region, while two cases from Winnipeg still haven’t been classified either.

The first cases of coronavirus variants were reported in early February.

The B117 variant makes up the bulk of variant cases in Manitoba to date at 261. Twenty are the B1351 variant that was originally found in South Africa, and 18 variant cases have yet to be further classified.

The provincial test positivity rate declined from 5.3 per cent Tuesday to 4.8 per cent. In Winnipeg, that rate is 4.4 per cent, up from 4.3 per cent one day earlier.

The number of people in hospital due to COVID-19 sits at 140, with 32 of them in intensive care.

The province has also declared an outbreak at Health Sciences Centre Unit GD4 and placed the facility in the red, or critical, level of Manitoba’s pandemic response system.

A previous outbreak at Extendicare Oakview Place in Winnipeg is now over.

The vaccine eligibility age dropped again Wednesday: anyone 62 or older and First Nations people 42 and older can now get immunized at one of the supersites or pop-up clinics. Just under 15 per cent of eligible Manitobans over the age of 18 had received at least one vaccine dose as of Wednesday.

Manitoba also announced Wednesday that anyone over 65 can now receive the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine, in addition to people age 55 to 64 with certain conditions that place them at risk. Appointments can be booked with family doctors and in pharmacies.

The news comes one day after Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin said the variant-driven third wave seen in other provinces will inevitably show up here. 

In light of growing concerns about variants, Roussin also warned Manitobans to take extra precautions, such as wearing masks when gathering with friends or family, even while outside.

He urged anyone returning from spring break travel out of province to heed Manitoba’s guidelines and get tested and isolate for two weeks upon arrival. Some exemptions to the rule apply.

The number of tests done in the province Tuesday was 2,073, and there are 1,294 active cases of COVID-19 in Manitoba.

Most of the 109 cases announced Wednesday are in the Northern Health Region, with 49, and the Winnipeg health region, with 51. There are four cases in Prairie Mountain Health, three in Interlake-Eastern and two in Southern Health.

The latest death announced Wednesday is a man in his 90s from Winnipeg. So far, 943 people have died due to COVID-19 in Manitoba.