Coronavirus variant 1st found in South Africa discovered in Manitoba
64 new COVID-19 cases, 2 more deaths announced Tuesday
Three more cases of more contagious coronavirus variants have been identified in Manitoba, including the first cases of a variant discovered in South Africa, the province says.
There is one new confirmed case of the B117 variant first identified in the United Kingdom and two confirmed cases of the COVID-19 variant of concern first identified in South Africa.
All three cases were in the Winnipeg region, the province says.
This is the first time the B1351 variant first identified in South Africa has been confirmed in Manitoba.
The total number of confirmed variant of concern cases of B117 is now six and B1351 is now two.
The variants are more contagious than the current predominant strains in Manitoba and so present a bigger challenge when attempting to contain transmission.
Manitoba's first B117 variant case was announced on Feb. 9 and since then, the province has put stricter self-isolation rules in place to prevent spread related to travel, and shortened the amount of time people must spend close to each other in order to be considered close contacts.
In total, there are 64 new COVID-19 cases in Manitoba on Tuesday and two more people have died after getting the illness, the province said in a news release.
The deaths are a man in his 70s from the Interlake-Eastern health region and a man in his 50s from the Winnipeg health region, linked to the outbreak at Seven Oaks General Hospital Unit 3U 4-7, the province says in a news release.
Manitoba's test positivity rate is four per cent while Winnipeg's test positivity rate is 3.2 per cent.
Cases in Manitoba have been trending downward in recent days, with only 35 new cases announced Monday — the lowest daily case count since Oct. 7, when the province reported 32 cases.
Earlier Tuesday, Premier Brian Pallister and Dr. Brent Roussin, chief provincial public health officer, announced the province would be loosening COVID-19 restrictions further.
Starting Friday, all businesses, with the exception of indoor theatres, concert halls, casinos and bingo halls, can reopen at reduced capacity.
Manitobans will also be able to choose to designate one other household to form a pandemic bubble, or stick with their current two designated visitors.
Retail businesses will be able to operate at 50 per cent capacity, up to a maximum of 250 people, while restaurants can also operate at 50 per cent capacity, though the rule limiting seating to household members only remains in place.