Manitoba reports 1st death linked to P1 variant, 476 new COVID-19 cases

Manitoba has reported its first death linked to the P1 coronavirus variant associated with Brazil.

The woman who died was in her 70s and lived in the Winnipeg health region, the province said in a news release.

Since the first case of that coronavirus strain was identified in Manitoba over a month ago, 85 more have been reported. On Saturday, the province’s online variant dashboard listed 73 recovered cases and 11 that were still active.

Manitoba also announced 527 more cases have been identified as stemming from coronavirus variants. Those strains now make up 2,965 — or nearly 60 per cent — of the province’s 4,984 active cases, Manitoba’s online variant dashboard says.

Five other COVID-19 deaths were also reported, including four more linked to variants.

They include a man in his 50s from the Southern Health region, as well as a woman in her 30s and a man in his 70s from the Winnipeg health region who had contracted the B117 strain first identified in the U.K.

That strain is by far the most dominant in Manitoba, linked to 3,944 infections — nearly half — of the province’s known variant caseload, which now sits at 8,597 cases, the variant dashboard says.

A man in his 60s from the Winnipeg health region, whose case was linked to a variant that has not yet been specified, has also died, the province says. So has a man in his 70s from the Winnipeg health region who contracted COVID-19.

The latest deaths bring Manitoba’s total linked to the illness to 1,028.

Test positivity rate, hospitalizations rise

The province also reported 476 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday.

Roughly three-quarters of those cases are in the Winnipeg health region, which reported 360 infections. The area also announced a five-day test positivity rate of 16.8 per cent, up from 16.1 on Friday.

Across the province, that rate rose to 14.3 per cent from 14.1.

The rest of the new cases are split between the Southern Health region (which posted 44), the Northern Health Region (26), the Interlake-Eastern health region (24) and the Prairie Mountain Health region (22).

There are now 298 COVID-19 patients hospitalized in the province, up by two since Friday. Seventy-four of those people are in intensive care units across Manitoba, down by five since Friday.

However, Manitoba sent five intensive care patients to hospitals in northern Ontario this week — and the province has said those people won’t be included in hospitalization totals.

That move came as Manitoba continues to battle its third wave of COVID-19, which is landing more people in hospital and severely straining the province’s ability to care for its sickest patients. Hospitals in Ontario have said they’re prepared to take up to 15 more intensive care patients from Manitoba, as the prairie province works to free up more space in its hospitals.

On Saturday morning, Premier Brian Pallister repeated his call to the U.S. to allow North Dakota to share surplus COVID-19 vaccines with Manitoba.

A day earlier, Pallister asked the federal government to send critical care nurses, respiratory therapists and contact tracers to help Manitoba get its COVID-19 situation under control.

As of Saturday, just under half of Manitobans age 12 and older had gotten at least one vaccine dose, the province’s online vaccine dashboard says.

Manitoba has now identified 47,977 COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic last year, including 41,965 people deemed recovered.