46 more cases of coronavirus variant discovered in Manitoba
116 new COVID-19 cases Friday, 3 more deaths from illness
Another 46 cases of the more contagious coronavirus variant of concern first detected in the U.K. have been identified in Manitoba, public health officials say.
Of the newly identified cases of the B117 coronavirus variant announced Friday, 44 are in the Winnipeg area and two are in the Southern Health region, acting deputy chief public health officer Dr. Jazz Atwal said at a news conference.
There are now 109 confirmed cases of the B117 variant in Manitoba and 14 confirmed cases of the B1351 variant, which was first identified in South Africa.
"In general we are seeing an increase in our cases throughout Manitoba.… We do see, coupled with that, the number of [variants of concern] increase as well," Atwal said.
"Roughly 32 per cent of all cases in Manitoba right now are testing positive for a VOC, so we are keeping a sharp eye on it."
Manitoba is also reporting 116 more COVID-19 cases and three more deaths from the illness caused by the coronavirus.
Most of the new cases are in the Winnipeg health region — 51 — and in the Northern Health region — 55.
There are also five cases in the Southern Health region, three in the Prairie Mountain Health region and two in the Interlake-Eastern health region.
The sharp rise in the number of variant cases will likely lead to more cases next week, Atwal said at Friday afternoon's news conference.
"Think about all those interactions you had on a daily basis for the last two weeks. Each one of those interactions, if you write them down, poses some inherent risk," he said.
"Some are a little less risky and some are a little more, so we continue to need to be aware of that."
WATCH | More than one-third of COVID-19 cases are variants of concern
Craig Jenne, an associate professor in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Infectious Diseases at the University of Calgary and a Canada Research Chair, says variants of concern are difficult to get under control once they've spread to different parts of the province.
"Once it starts to get more spread out, the ability to put that genie back in the bottle disappears quickly and we know it will continue to spread," he said.
There is some good news, though.
"The four vaccines approved in Canada are still quite effective against these variants. Although they have slightly reduced ability to stop the spread of the variants, they're still excellent at protecting against severe disease, hospitalization, intensive care unit admission and perhaps most critically, loss of life to COVID," Jenne said.
"[Variants of concern are] spreading rapidly. We need to keep them low and keep that spread limited until we get the vaccines out to as many people as possible, and then we'll have protection even against these variants."
The deaths announced Friday were a man in his 70s from the Interlake-Eastern health region, a man in his 60s from the Northern health region and a man in his 70s from the Winnipeg health region.
They bring the total number of deaths caused by COVID-19 in Manitoba to 932.
Case count rising
The total number of COVID-19 hospitalizations dipped to 142 on Friday, from 146 the day before. That includes 31 patients in intensive care units, up from 30 on Thursday.
Manitoba's test positivity rate is 4.4 per cent, up from 4.3, and Winnipeg's rate dipped to 3.6 per cent.
WATCH | Variants of concern may overtake COVID-19 as dominant strain
The seven-day average daily case count has risen gradually since the start of the month. On March 1, the average was around 61 cases per day. Now, it's around 90, an increase of almost 50 per cent over that time.
Aside from Thursday, there were two other days in the month that exceeded 100 for new daily cases. On March 12 there were 104 and on March 16 there were 110. The numbers came close on March 23 as well, with 98.
The province now has 1,169 active cases of COVID-19 and 31,709 people have recovered from the illness.
Labs completed 1,959 COVID-19 tests on Thursday.
Meanwhile, the outbreak at Actionmarguerite St. Joseph personal care home in Winnipeg is now over.
WATCH | Full news conference on COVID-19 | March 26, 2021