51 new COVID-19 cases, 3 deaths reported in Manitoba

Manitoba continues to report some of the lowest daily counts of new COVID-19 cases the province has seen in months.

There were 51 new cases of the illness and three more COVID-19-related deaths reported Wednesday, according to a news release.

The update comes as the province announced plans to delay the second dose of COVID-19 vaccines by up to four months in order to get more of the population vaccinated faster. 

The five-day test positivity rate in Manitoba is now at 3.8 per cent — a drop from Tuesday’s four per cent — while in Winnipeg it is at 3.2 per cent, unchanged from Tuesday. 

All three deaths reported Wednesday were residents of the Winnipeg area. They include a man in his 40s, a man in his 80s and a woman in her 90s.

That brings the number of deaths in the province of people who contracted COVID-19 to 901.

The province has been reported double-digit case numbers all week, with only 35 COVID-19 cases reported on Monday, the lowest daily case count since Oct. 7. Another 64 cases were reported on Tuesday.

The majority of Wednesday’s new cases — 30 in total — were reported in the Northern Health region. There were 15 reported in the Winnipeg area, three cases in Interlake–Eastern health region and three cases in the Southern Health region. No new cases were reported in the Prairie Mountain Health region Wednesday.

There are currently 186 people in the hospital due to COVID-19, with 24 people in intensive care units. 

The total number of confirmed cases involving the more transmissible coronavirus variants remains at eight.

The first two cases of B1351, the variant of concern first identified in South Africa, were reported Tuesday, as was an additional case of B117, the variant first identified in the UK. A total of six B117 cases have now been found in Manitoba. 

On Wednesday, health officials announced that they will delay the rollout of the second dose of COVID-19 vaccines to get more people vaccinated sooner. 

Dr. Joss Reimer, head of Manitoba’s vaccine task force, said there is evidence to suggest that spacing out doses by up to four months appears to still offer high levels of protection.

Following Reimer’s news conference on Wednesday afternoon, Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI), which gives advice to governments on use of approved vaccines, recommended that the maximum interval between the first and second doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine should increase from three weeks to four months.

“While studies have not yet collected four months of data on vaccine effectiveness after the first dose, the first two months of real world effectiveness are showing sustained high levels of protection,” NACI said in a statement. 

As of Wednesday, 80,171 doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in Manitoba — 50,895 first doses and 29,276 second doses. 

Manitoba expects to receive its first batch of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine in mid-March. Reimer said the first people to receive it will be those who are at higher risk of becoming severely ill from COVID-19 and are in the 50-64 age range.

NACI has advised against giving the AstraZeneca vaccine to people older than 65, saying there isn’t enough data available yet on how effective it is for people over that age.

WATCH | Full news conference on COVID-19 | March 3, 2021:

Provincial officials give update on COVID-19 outbreak: Wednesday, March 3, 2021. 38:22