Manitoba extends public health orders for 3 more weeks

Manitoba’s public health orders are being extended three more weeks, Health Minister Audrey Gordon says.

The rules, which were set to expire on Tuesday, will now last until at least Feb.1, Gordon said in a news release on Friday.

The province’s current rules limit gatherings, with higher caps for groups where everyone is vaccinated. They also cut capacity limits in half in most other places, from restaurants and casinos to gyms and theatres.

The extension will give the province time to gather data and monitor the impacts of the Omicron coronavirus variant, the release said.

The highly contagious strain has helped drive skyrocketing cases in the province, which continues to report record-breaking daily case counts that are likely only a fraction of the true number of infections.

That undercount is happening because the spike in cases has overwhelmed Manitoba’s testing capacity.

As of Friday, the province was still working through a backlog of about 6,000 samples. Earlier this week, it also announced PCR tests will only be offered to certain groups in an effort to preserve its ability to run tests.

“Ongoing restrictions are a challenge for many Manitobans, but remain necessary to help slow the spread of the virus and protect our health-care system,” Gordon said in the release. 

“While these orders remain in place, we continue to take steps to improve supply and access to testing and other important initiatives that support our pandemic response and protect our health system.

“Nothing is off the table and we will act swiftly in the weeks ahead if further action is required to protect Manitobans.”

Hospitalizations among COVID-19 patients have jumped recently, from 192 to 297 in the past week alone. But the number of those patients landing in intensive care units has remained relatively stable, the release said. The number of COVID-19 patients in ICU has gone from 30 to 34 in the past week.

The province said it will continue to monitor Omicron cases, their impact on the health-care system, and outcomes both in Manitoba and in other jurisdictions.

Manitoba remains at the restricted or orange level of its pandemic response system, the release said.

A full list of what rules are staying in place until February is available on the province’s website.