Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister

Courtesy CBC

Increasing COVID-19 numbers has the Manitoba government bringing in harsher lockdown laws.

Manitoba’s chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin said the province has carefully monitored numbers and observed a “concerning trend” in case numbers and test positivity rates, particularly in the aftermath of spring break and the Easter and Passover holidays.

“The fundamentals continue to be paramount in stopping the spread of this deadly virus,” he said Monday, urging Manitobans to continue to stay home as much as possible and significantly limit close contact.

With no new deaths reported on Monday, Manitoba health officials announced 108 new COVID-19 infections with 63 cases from Winnipeg.

“Despite our best collective efforts and having some of the strictest measures in the country, COVID-19 cases and particularly variants of concern are on the rise,” said Premier Brian Pallister.

The Manitoba government said they will introduce new public health orders Tuesday in an attempt to slow the spread of variants of concern.

Among the added restrictions: households can only have two designated visitors indoors, with limits to outdoor gatherings on public and private property limited to a maximum of 10 people, including household members.

Limits to faith-based gatherings will be 25% capacity, with indoor mask orders and social distancing remaining in effect.

On Wednesday, one-third capacity limits of retail stores or up to 333 patrons, whichever is lower, will also come into effect.

Pallister acknowledged the restrictions aren’t what many Manitobans want to hear right now, but he urged their importance to protect the province and its healthcare system.

Changes to the orders are in effect until May 12.

According to provincial data, there are 132 hospitalizations due to novel coronavirus and 30 patients in ICU.

“It is our goal that by acting quickly now, we can slow the speed of the third wave avoid a return to full shutdown in many sectors throughout our province,” said Pallister, noting the province is better equipped now than the first and second waves.

The government recently announced a new rapid testing partnership with Manitoba businesses and the critical services sector to help limit the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace and community through early, asymptomatic testing.

As well, Manitoba’s Vaccine Implementation Task Force is expanding the eligibility criteria for the Astra-Zeneca vaccine to all people age 40 and up, rather than keeping it restricted to older Manitobans only.

“We must be cautious in our attitude towards COVID-19, and we must be proactive in our actions against COVID-19,” said Pallister.

Manitoba recorded 36,267 confirmed COVID-19 cases since March 2020, with the number of COVID-19 deaths remaining 959.

Dhaliwal is a freelance reporter based in Calgary

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