Manitoba’s recent uptick in COVID-19 cases are largely travel-related, but that doesn’t mean the province should pause its reopening plan, according to the province’s top doctor.
The one new case of COVID-19 announced Monday was a truck driver from the Southern Health region in his 40s, said chief public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin. The test was actually done in Ontario, which is where he had travelled.
In addition, two of the cases announced on Friday, a man and woman in their 50s, also from the Southern Health region, were related to travel. They had been to Alberta and the United States, but had come into contact with a confirmed case in Alberta.
Roussin said the two didn’t follow self-isolation guidelines after returning, so a fine could potentially be imposed.
"Most Manitobans are knowing that we’re in this together, and things like stigma and fear isn’t what’s going to get us through it, it’s working together. … We’re much better able to help protect the health of Manitobans through co-operation with people than levying fines," he said.
With the case announced on Monday, that means three out of the six new cases announced since Friday are related to travel.
The province was expecting cases to be imported from outside Manitoba’s borders, Roussin said, and people must learn to live with the virus that has now infected a total of 314 people in the province.
"This virus isn’t gone and it’s not likely to be gone in the near future, so we need to continue our progress with reopening the economy, but we still need to be aware of this virus and seeing increased cases alone isn’t going to make us back away from our reopening plan," Roussin said.
We have a number of indicators that we’re following, but we need to get used to seeing cases — we just want to make sure that when we see them these people are isolated, haven’t had a number of contacts and that we really limit community-based transmission."
Truck drivers are at a higher risk of becoming infected, Roussin said, but the province isn’t seeing significant community transmission as a result. The vast majority of contacts who get sick are within the same household.
The message is to get tested if you are sick and to isolate from other people if you test positive, Roussin said. He downplayed the province instituting asymptomatic testing for truck drivers entering the province.
"Asymptomatic testing is not a priority, we have very, very low test positivity rate … certainly testing asymptomatic people should not be the focus of any testing strategy."
The province will continue to work with the provincial trucking industry to make the messaging around COVID-19 clear, Roussin said.
As of Monday, there is no one in the hospital with COVID-19, but there are 14 active cases of the virus in Manitoba. The death toll remains at seven people. More than 58,000 people have been tested since early February.
The total number of positive cases in the Prairie Mountain Health region remains at 26.
» Twitter: @DrewMay_
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