Manitoba public health officials announced 124 new COVID-19 cases and two deaths on Monday.
That’s the lowest number of daily cases since April 19, when there were 108 new cases.
One of the deaths is a woman in her 50s from the Winnipeg health region, linked to the B.1.1.7 variant of concern. The other is a man in his 80s from the Southern Health region.
There are 80 new cases in the Winnipeg health region, 19 in the Southern Health region, 14 in the Northern Health Region, seven in the Prairie Mountain Health region and four in the Interlake-Eastern health region.
There are 86 Manitobans receiving intensive care for COVID-19, 60 in the province and 26 elsewhere: 25 in Ontario and one in Alberta.
The number of Manitobans who have died from COVID-19 since the pandemic began is now 1,102. One death was removed from the total over the weekend due to a data correction.
The current five-day COVID-19 test positivity rate is 10.7 per cent provincially, a slight dip from 10.8 on Sunday. The rate in Winnipeg is 10.2 per cent, the same as it was on Sunday.
WATCH | Dr. Roussin says Manitoba on pace to have 25 per cent of eligible population fully vaccinated by July 1:
Asked Monday what test positivity rate he would like to see before easing more restrictions in Manitoba, Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin hesitated. He called that marker an important factor but said reopening plans won’t rely solely on it.
The province will also consider vaccination rates, overall case counts and the ongoing strain on health-care system before making that decision.
That said, “certainly, around that five per cent is what we’re looking for,” Roussin said about the positivity rate.
The seven-day average daily case count is now 225. The pandemic peak, which came during the third wave in Manitoba, was 482 on May 22.
“Our case numbers are heading in the right direction. Our vaccination rates are climbing,” Roussin said.
But the province continues to see deaths related to the virus and a strain on the health-care system, especially inside the intensive care units, he said.
Although the number of people in ICUs has somewhat stabilized over the past week, it’s still an “extremely high number,” Roussin said.
“And we’re likely to see that for the couple weeks to come because that’s that lagging indicator.”
Roussin also touched on his concern about some of the variants, particularly the delta variant.
“We know that the delta variant does provide a risk to us. [It] has the potential to be more transmissible and more severe in its impacts,” he said.
“This means that we have to continue to … ensure we’re getting vaccinated and getting both doses of vaccine.”
WATCH | Dr. Roussin on how Manitoba is handling the delta variant:
The number of cases associated with the B.1.617 strain, first identified in India, have soared from 18 one week ago to 101 now. Those include cases of the B.1.617.1, B.1.617.2 and B.1.617.3 variants.
The B.1.617.2 variant, now called the delta variant, has been designated as a variant of concern by the World Health Organization.
“This is exactly why our reopening plans are cautious. We really want Manitobans to get vaccinated — first and second doses — as quick as possible. It’s really our way out of this,” Roussin said.
“If we slow our progress in vaccines, if we see that spike in numbers again, it’s going to put our reopen plans in jeopardy.”
Father’s Day is coming up on June 20. It will be impacted by restrictions preventing big celebrations, though small outdoor gatherings are possible now, Roussin said.
On Saturday, relaxed health rules came into effect, allowing up to five people to gather outside on public property, and up to five visitors from no more than two different households outdoors at homes.
Case numbers have gradually come down in recent weeks, although the infection rate in Manitoba continues to vastly outpace the rest of the country.
Vaccinations are moving toward a major goal, with 69.1 per cent of people age 12 and older having gotten at least one dose as of Sunday.
The provincial government aims to have at least 70 per cent of eligible people vaccinated with at least one dose and 25 per cent with two doses by July 1.
Ontario announced Monday that it is lifting the travel restrictions between it and its neighbouring provinces — Manitoba and Quebec — on Wednesday morning.
However, Roussin said Manitoba has no immediate plan to change its current orders, which require anyone entering Manitoba to self-isolate for 14 days. There are limited exemptions for essential workers and property owners.
The only change is what was announced last week, Roussin said: those who have been fully vaccinated with two vaccine doses for a minimum of two weeks can travel interprovincially without being required to self-isolate upon return.