2nd and 3rd presumptive cases of coronavirus identified in Manitoba
1st presumptive case, a woman in her 40s who travelled to the Philippines, in stable condition at home
There are now three presumptive cases of COVID-19 in Manitoba.
The Manitoba government released a statement just after 5 p.m. Thursday, saying the number of cases has risen from one to three.
The second and third presumptive cases are both men in their 30s who live in Winnipeg and were likely exposed to the virus during recent travel.
Earlier Thursday, Manitoba Health Minister Cameron Friesen said the province had its first presumptive case of COVID-19.
That patient, a woman in her 40s who travelled to the Philippines recently, is in stable condition and in isolation at home. She had mild symptoms and was wearing a mask when she went to be tested, health officials said. Officials started working Thursday morning to trace anyone she may have had contact with.
The province said in its statement that early evidence suggests travellers who were on the following flights, on March 7 and 8, could have been exposed to COVID-19:
- Philippines Airlines flight PR 466 from Manila to Incheon, Korea — Rows 48 to 54.
- Air Canada flight AC 0064 from Incheon, Korea, to Vancouver International Airport — Rows 30 to 36.
- Air Canada flight AC 8624 from Vancouver International Airport to Winnipeg — Rows 24 to 29.
Anyone on these flights who was seated in the rows mentioned should self-isolate and watch for symptoms for the 14 days following the flight, the province says.
Testing to confirm presumptive cases at the National Microbiology Lab will take 24 hours, Friesen said.
WATCH | Health minister talks about plans for COVID-19:
The province also announced the opening of two screening centres for coronavirus in Winnipeg Thursday. The centres will allow people with symptoms of COVID-19 to be tested in a dedicated space.
There have been 403 completed tests for COVID-19 in Manitoba as of March 11, up from 97 a week ago, the province said.
Friesen said there were about 500 more tests done on Wednesday.
Provincial health officer Dr. Brent Roussin and Lanette Siragusa, chief nursing officer for Manitoba Shared Health, also spoke Thursday about what the province is doing moving forward.
Siragusa said the Access centres in Winnipeg West (280 Booth Dr.) and Fort Garry (135 Plaza Dr.) started testing people showing symptoms of COVID-19 as of Thursday.
More sites are expected to do the same by the end of the week, and there are plans to expand the service to other parts of Manitoba, she said.
The Access centres that are turned into testing sites will stay open for regular business, but precautions are in place to separate people coming with COVID-19 symptoms and those coming for regular visits, said Winnipeg Regional Health Authority spokesperson Paul Turenne.
Testing sites are only for people with symptoms of COVID-19. Everyone else should call Health Links for advice about what to do if they think they've been in contact with someone who has the virus.
Both Access centres will be open for testing Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., and weekends from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Outside those hours, patients will be directed to an urgent care or emergency department.
Results take 24 to 48 hours, and patients should self-isolate at home while they wait, health officials said.
Roussin said officials were notified of the first presumptive case Thursday morning.
It was expected that Manitoba would eventually have a presumptive case, and processes were in place to rapidly identify it, he said.
He asked all returning international travellers to self-monitor for symptoms, and anyone coming back from Italy, Iran or China's Hubei province to self-isolate.
Roussin said the virus is spreading quickly, and advised people with upcoming travel plans to carefully consider what would happen if they were required to quarantine or self-isolate while away.
Employers should review their business continuity plans and look for ways for employees to work from home, if possible, he said.
Health officials recommend all Manitobans use social distancing to limit the spread of COVID-19. These strategies include minimizing contact that is longer than 10 minutes and staying two metres away from others.
It's also recommended that people avoid greetings that involve touching (like handshakes), disinfect frequently used surfaces, and consider avoiding travel or going to crowded places and events.
This advice is especially useful for people at a higher risk for severe outcomes, including people over 65 and those with underlying medical conditions or compromised immune systems.
The vast majority of people who contract the virus will experience mild to moderate symptoms and will recover, Friesen said.
City and provincial emergency management offices are working together to monitor the spread, Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman said at a news conference Thursday.
Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister said the province is considering taking measures at the legislature and in Crown corporations to contain the virus, although he didn't provide details.
Two Manitoba cabinet ministers were absent from the legislature Thursday after attending a Toronto mining conference, where an Ontario attendee later tested positive.
The Manitoba government would not confirm whether Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Eileen Clarke and Agriculture Minister Blaine Pedersen are self-isolating, citing privacy legislation. But it said all provincial employees who were at the conference have been asked to remove themselves from work.
Manitoba has been able to learn from other jurisdictions that already had detected cases of the virus to inform the provincial plan for COVID-19, Friesen said.
Siragusa said one of the aspects of that plan was making sure there are enough ventilators available in the province to help people who contract the virus. There are currently 243 ventilators in Manitoba, plus the ones already in operating rooms — and there are another 20 on order, she said.
The province also has had conversations with First Nations and Inuit Health about how to make people in northern and remote communities aware of how to prevent and identify the virus, she said.
The province is ordering supplies on behalf of those communities, and will work with anyone from those communities who needs acute care.
WATCH | Full news conference on Manitoba's first presumptive case of COVID-19:
With files from The Canadian Press