Manitoba reports record 603 new COVID-19 cases, 3 deaths

Manitoba reported a single-day record of 603 new cases of COVID-19 and three deaths linked to the illness on Thursday.

A woman in her 40s from Winnipeg and a man in his 70s from the Southern Health region died due to infections from the B117 coronavirus variant originally detected in the U.K. The third death is a man in his 50s from Winnipeg.

So far, 1,019 people have died in Manitoba due to COVID-19, with 46 deaths reported this month.

The latest numbers come after Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister said more restrictions will be announced Thursday ahead of the May long weekend.

“I think we’re in the darkest days,” he said during a Thursday news conference. 

“We’ve been suffering through this pandemic because we can’t get together.… We need to suffer a little longer so that we can turn this curve.”

Manitoba Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin is expected to reveal more details about the restrictions during a 4 p.m. news conference.

Cases continue to rise and hospitalization rates aren’t expected to peak for weeks, according to government models.

Hospitals have seen a crush of patients stretch health-care resources thin in a matter of weeks.

Three weeks ago, 142 COVID-19 patients were in hospital. That number has more than doubled to 291 on Thursday.

Manitoba’s critical care resources in particular have already been maxed out, with the province sending three COVID-19 patients to be cared for in Thunder Bay, Ont., on Wednesday to free up space in ICUs.

WATCH | Premier on strained ICU capacity:

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister said the province has worked to increased capacity in its intensive care units before and during the pandemic. Pallister said the province also has a long-standing relationship with hospitals in northern Ontario, after three Manitoba patients were sent to get care in Thunder Bay, Ont., due to strained ICU capacity. 0:31

There are 76 patients in intensive care as of Thursday, up from 41 three weeks ago. Those figures do not include the dozens of other patients in ICU for reasons unrelated to COVID-19.

The province is expected to top its second wave critical care record of 129 ICU patients overall, almost double the pre-pandemic ICU capacity in Manitoba.

The provincial test positivity rate was 13.8 per cent, up from 13.5 on Wednesday. That rate rose to 15.3 per cent in Winnipeg, from 15.1.

The total number of cases linked to variants also jumped from 7,141 on Wednesday to 7,636 on Thursday. Over half of Manitoba’s 4,659 active cases are variants. 

Nearly half of all variant cases so far have been B117, while half are listed as unspecified. Variants associated with Brazil, India and South Africa make up about 1.5 per cent of cases.

The majority of the new cases — 409 — are in Winnipeg. Another 97 emerged in the Southern Health region, 41 in Prairie Mountain Health, 36 in the Northern Health Region and 20 in Interlake-Eastern.

Everyone 12 and up is eligible to be vaccinated in Manitoba, and second dose appointments will open starting Friday. 

The premier urged Manitobans who haven’t gotten their first doses to do so as soon as possible.

“I respect your right to choose. Your body is your body. Your decision is your decision. But you’re not alone in the impacts of that decision,” he said.

“So consider that. COVID is evil. It robs your breath. It robs your strength. It robs your freedoms. It can take your life. There are real consequences to getting COVID and I don’t want those consequence to happen to you.”

Book a vaccine appointment through the province’s website or call 1-844-626-8222.