The province announced 488 new COVID-19 infections on Saturday, as Manitoba continues to see caseloads at a height not reached since the peak of its second wave.
A day earlier, there were 502 new cases — one of Manitoba’s highest single-day increases so far during the pandemic.
The province also reported three more deaths linked to COVID-19 on Saturday, including a woman in her 20s from the Winnipeg health region.
The two other deaths — men in their 70s and 80s — are linked to the more contagious B117 coronavirus variant first detected in the U.K., the province said in a news release. The man in his 70s was from the Winnipeg health region, while the one in his 80s was from the Prairie Mountain Health region.
Nearly 80 per cent of the new infections announced on Saturday — 389 — are in the Winnipeg health region, where the five-day test positivity rate jumped to 12.6 per cent from 11.3 on Friday.
Across the province, that rate rose to 10.5 per cent from 9.6, the release said.
Anyone 35 and older is now eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine at one of Manitoba’s supersites or temporary immunization clinics, the province said in an online update Saturday.
New rules coming Sunday
The latest numbers come hours after Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin announced new pandemic rules on Friday evening.
The stricter public health order takes effect on Sunday and will stay in place for at least three weeks. It will affect businesses from restaurants to gyms, and prohibits indoor activities ranging from church services to sports.
Those changes were announced as Manitoba’s “dramatic” rise in cases in recent weeks has led to a similar spike in COVID-19 patients landing in intensive care, Roussin said.
On Saturday, the number of coronavirus patients hospitalized dropped by one, to 200. And while the number of those in intensive care fell by two to 54, it remains near the peak of roughly 60 patients Manitoba saw during its second wave in mid-December.
Officials announced on Friday the province had added 19 intensive care beds across a number of hospitals and is preparing for more as the units see a jump in patients during Manitoba’s third wave.
The rest of the province’s most recent COVID-19 cases are split between the Southern Health region (which reported 43), the Prairie Mountain Health region (30), the Interlake-Eastern health region (17) and the Northern Health Region (nine).
As well, 272 more cases have been identified as involving highly transmissible coronavirus strains as of Saturday, according to the province’s online variant dashboard.
That brings the total number of cases linked to those variants to 3,665. Cases stemming from variants, most of which are the B117 strain, now make up nearly 42 per cent of Manitoba’s 3,237 active COVID-19 cases.
The deaths announced Saturday bring the province’s total linked to COVID-19 to 990.
Manitoba has now identified 41,425 cases of the illness to date, including 37,198 people who have been deemed recovered.
Fines increase for pandemic scofflaws
Meanwhile, the province released details Saturday on increased fines for repeat pandemic rule violations or for failing to pay a ticket on time.
Premier Brian Pallister said a news conference Friday that changes to fines were being made, but did not provide specific amounts.
People fined more than once for not wearing a mask can now be fined $486, up from $298, the province said Saturday.
Those who break other pandemic rules more than once can now be slapped with a ticket for $2,542, up from $1,296.
Failing to pay your ticket on time — which results in a default conviction — will now cost you $100, which is double what it would have before.
Fines for businesses remain unchanged, the province said, with a maximum of $5,000.