A total of 479 new COVID-19 cases were identified in Manitoba since Friday as the province tweaked self-isolation rules in the Southern Health-Santé Sud region.
There were 130 new cases reported on Friday, 90 new cases Saturday, 114 new cases Sunday, 79 new cases Monday and 66 new cases Tuesday, according to the province.
Out of the 66 new cases reported Tuesday, 42 were in people not fully vaccinated.
New household self-isolation requirements are in store for the Southern Health region, which saw 161 of the new COVID-19 cases since Friday. The health region also saw the lion’s share of new deaths — seven of nine new deaths of people with COVID-19 announced Tuesday.
The measures come during a time deputy chief public health officer Dr. Jazz Atwal said the region is seeing increased community transmission.
People living in a house with close contacts of positive COVID-19 cases or with someone who is symptomatic but hasn’t been notified of exposure now have to self-isolate, Atwal said Tuesday. Previously, they did not.
People who are fully vaccinated or infected in the last six months are exempt from the new rules, which take effect immediately.
The changes come while the region still lags behind the rest of the province in terms of its vaccination rate. As of Tuesday, approximately 67 per cent of eligible people in the region had been vaccinated, compared to more than 80 per cent in the rest of the province.
Atwal said the province is still working on education to boost the vaccination rate in the health region.
While many people shared turkey and pumpkin pie with friends and family over the weekend, the impact of Thanksgiving gatherings on the COVID-19 situation is hard to anticipate, Atwal said.
"This all depends on the behaviours of Manitobans," he said, adding restrictions on unvaccinated people were tightened before the holiday. Indoor gatherings are currently restricted to two households if anyone there has chosen not to be vaccinated.
"If people adhered, then the risk is very different this year and obviously, it’s very different this year than last year as well because the vaccine wasn’t available," Atwal said.
"We should be looking good in comparison to last year for sure. But I do anticipate our case numbers … will continue to increase week by week. We’ll have a close eye on that."
The province is also ramping up flu vaccination efforts ahead of an anticipated winter flu season. Flu vaccines have been delivered to priority areas, such as hospitals, long-term care facilities and First Nations, Atwal said.
While there were only seven confirmed flu cases in Manitoba last year, Atwal said, relaxed health restrictions could mean increased spread this season.
"This speaks to the power of staying home when you are sick, covering your cough, washing your hands frequently and wearing a mask," he said.
The goal is to surpass last year’s flu vaccine coverage, he said, which was 31.5 per cent eligible people vaccinated, compared to 26.3 per cent in the 2019-2020 flu season.
There is also the wrinkle of a limited flu season in the southern hemisphere, which means northern countries don’t have significant data on what strain of flu might be dominant this year, he said. So far, there has been one flu case reported in Manitoba.
"We do anticipate cases occurring related to influenza, we do anticipate some hospitalizations, the extent of which we don’t know."
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