Manitoba health official to give COVID-19 update at 12:30 p.m.

Manitoba’s acting deputy chief provincial public health officer will give the latest update on COVID-19 in the province on Friday afternoon.

CBC News will live stream the news conference with Dr. Jazz Atwal here at 12:30 p.m.

The update will come hours before Manitoba’s latest set of pandemic rules come into effect one minute after the stroke of midnight on Saturday. The latest public health orders will allow most Manitobans to have two designated people over as visitors and permit stores to sell non-essential items again.

Those rules will apply everywhere but northern Manitoba, which will remain under the current heavy restrictions because of a spike in cases in recent days and significant COVID-19 outbreaks in several communities.

The military was deployed to Garden Hill First Nation earlier this week to help the community get a handle on skyrocketing cases.

Since Jan. 11, there have been 754 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Northern Health Region. The massive region is Manitoba’s most sparsely populated, with a 2019 population just shy of 77,000.

As of Thursday, that part of the province had a COVID-19 infection rate of 4,146.04 cases per 100,000 people, Manitoba’s online dashboard says — about four cases for every 100 people. 

That’s by far Manitoba’s highest infection rate, and more than double the province’s second-highest of 2,080.42 in Winnipeg — or about two in every 100 people.

Places like restaurants and gyms still must stay closed to in-person services.

The rules that take effect Saturday will stay in place for three weeks before being evaluated again.

The changes come more than two months after Manitoba brought in its tightest pandemic restrictions yet, banning most household visitors and barring stores from selling non-essential goods.