Manitoba brings in aggressive new rules to curb COVID-19 cases and contacts
All close contacts of cases must self-isolate for at least 14 days, Dr. Brent Roussin says
Manitoba is taking an aggressive stance to manage COVID-19 cases and close contacts over fears of extremely contagious variants at the same time as it eases its months-long lockdown.
Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin announced Monday a new definition of a close contact and strict rules for all COVID-19 case contacts.
"To continue moving forward with our cautious approach, our slow reopening, we need to prevent the introduction and widespread transmission of the variants of concern. We need to ensure we're aggressively managing cases and contacts," he said at a news conference.
"These changes are to help address the diminished public health restrictions and also protect against community transmission of the variants of concern."
The province has officially lowered the threshold of prolonged contact from 15 minutes to 10 minutes for all cases, not just cases of more transmissible variants.
That means that a person who is in close proximity with a known coronavirus case for 10 minutes or longer will now be considered a close contact and have to self-isolate.
WATCH | Dr. Roussin on the new, more aggressive rules:
The federal government currently considers a person who has been within one metre for 15 minutes to be a close contact.
"This is a guide," Roussin said.
"If there is high-risk contacts where we feel somebody was absolutely exposed to droplets, then that could be as little as just a few seconds or minutes."
The province will also implement a firm rule that all members of a household with a confirmed COVID-19 case will be considered close contacts, even if the person who is positive is self-isolating in a different part of the house, Roussin said.
"In the past we allowed, in certain circumstances, positive cases to self-isolate within the home if they had certain precautions in place. We've changed that in the past for the variants of concern. We're going to change that now for all positive cases. So everyone within a household with a positive case is going to be deemed a close contact," Roussin said.
If a close contact of a case lives in a different household, all members of the close contact's household will also have to self-isolate until the close contact has been tested and has a negative result.
Public health officials will advise close contacts on how long they're required to self-isolate, but it will be at least 14 days, regardless of testing results, Roussin said.
Close contacts without symptoms will be required to get tested 10 days after their initial exposure, while close contacts with symptoms should get tested as soon as they start feeling sick.
'Able to ramp up'
In the past, there were delays and backlogs with contact tracing in Manitoba, but Roussin said the province has enough contact tracing ability to keep up with the expected influx.
"Right now, we certainly are in a very good spot, but we've put things in place to be able to ramp up quite quickly if we see even multiple times the cases we're seeing right now," he said.
So far there are four confirmed cases of the B117 variant first identified in the United Kingdom. All four cases are linked to international travel.