Manitoba reports 237 new COVID-19 cases, 2 more deaths, as B.1.617 variants jump

Manitoba reported 237 new cases of COVID-19 and two deaths on Tuesday, while seeing a significant jump in cases involving more transmissible coronavirus variants since the weekend. 

Province reports big increase in more transmissible coronavirus variants

Health-care workers run tests on a patient suspected to have COVID-19 in the emergency department at Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg in this file photo. A total of 104 Manitobans are now receiving intensive care for COVID-19, including 36 outside the province. (Mikaela MacKenzie/The Canadian Press)

Manitoba reported 237 new cases of COVID-19 and two deaths on Tuesday, while seeing a significant jump in cases involving more transmissible coronavirus variants since the weekend.

A new lineage of the B.1.617 coronavirus variant has also been identified for the first time in Manitoba, the province's online variant dashboard says.

The deaths reported Tuesday are a man in his 60s from the Interlake-Eastern health region who contracted the more contagious B.1.1.7 variant and a man in his 80s from the Winnipeg health region, a provincial news release says. 

The total number of deaths in Manitoba due to COVID-19 is now 1,079, including 93 deaths linked to more contagious variants. 

The five-day COVID-19 test positivity rate in Manitoba is 12 per cent, while in Winnipeg it's 12.6 per cent.

Variant cases 'can explode very quickly': doctor

The province reported another 903 cases have been linked to more contagious variants of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 since Saturday.

The highest increase is among unspecified variants, with 477 new cases found. There are also 321 new cases involving the B.1.1.7 variant, first identified in the U.K., and 34 more cases involving P1, the variant commonly associated with Brazil. 

Cases involving B.1.617 variants leaped to 83 from just 18 on Saturday.

The province's first case of the B.1.617.3 variant was identified in the Winnipeg health region, the province's online dashboard says. 

Manitoba should be wary of B.1.617.2 variant — first identified in India and also known as the "delta variant" in the World Health Organization's new naming system — since it has caused cases to skyrocket in the U.K., said Dr. Anand Kumar, an intensive care physician and infectious disease specialist in Winnipeg.

The variant isn't as sensitive to a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and is almost 50 per cent more infectious than the B.1.1.7 variant, which has become the most dominant variant in Manitoba, he said. The B.1.1.7 variant itself is already 50 per cent more infectious than the original COVID-19 strain, Kumar added.

He hopes the province will be cautious in any plans to reopen, fearing the variant will otherwise lead to another wave of COVID-19 cases in Manitoba. 

 "This thing can explode very quickly," he said. 

"If we use the same criteria for reopening as we did before, we're going to have a big problem on our hands, I think, within a few months."

There are 300 people in hospital with COVID-19, down from 308 on Monday. 

A total of 104 Manitobans are receiving intensive care for COVID-19, 68 within the province and 36 outside the province: 33 in Ontario, one in Saskatchewan and two in Alberta.

The province says that 17 patients who were receiving care in an out-of-province intensive care unit have now been returned to Manitoba hospitals, including one who returned yesterday.

Most of the new cases reported Tuesday were in the Winnipeg health region, which has 144 new cases.

There were 42 new cases in the Southern Health region, 21 in the Northern Health Region,17 in the Prairie Mountain Health region and 13 in the Interlake-Eastern health region.

Premier Brian Pallister announced Tuesday that Manitobans who are fully vaccinated will be able to travel within Canada without having to self-isolate for two weeks if they've been fully vaccinated.