WINNIPEG — Manitoba’s top doctor says further restrictions could be coming if the province doesn’t see a reversal in new daily COVID-19 cases.
Dr. Brent Roussin, chief provincial public health officer, said Monday he spoke with Premier Brian Pallister earlier in the day about the possibility for tighter restrictions.
The Winnipeg Metropolitan Region has been in the red (critical) level on the Pandemic Response System since November 2, while the Southern Health region was moved to red on Monday. Winnipeg’s restrictions are set to expire at the end of this week, but will likely be extended for another incubation period of two weeks.
“We see these numbers going in the wrong direction,” Roussin said. “We see increased demand on our health care system. We are at a critical point where we need to change these dynamics.”
Manitoba has reported more than 2,000 new cases of the virus within the past week.
There have been outbreaks in hospitals and personal care homes. More health care workers have fallen ill, needing time off, and intensive care has been running close to capacity — 80 of the province’s 85 intensive care beds were occupied on Monday.
The province has already tightened restrictions on many public and business activities. Mask use is mandatory in indoor public places and public gatherings are limited to members of a household and five others.
Roussin said, “nothing has been off the table” in terms of what could come next, but says the province continues to monitor the numbers and will make a determination soon. Tighter restrictions in the Winnipeg area, for example, could see the closure of some businesses providing personal services, such as salons and nail bars, which can currently operate at 50 percent capacity. Gyms and fitness centres, which are operating at 25 percent, could also potentially close under tougher restrictions.
Roussin also said Monday he has learned of people gathering in larger groups outside of Winnipeg and the Southern Health region to flout current health restrictions in those areas.
“That’s not the spirit of the (public health) order. The spirit of the order is that we need to do things that are essential right now,” Roussin said.
“We don’t need to find ways to gather. When you do that, you’re not only putting yourself at risk, you’re putting Manitobans at risk. You’re putting our health-care workers at risk. So please, understand, the goal right now is to reduce your contacts.”
Dr. Roussin also encouraged businesses to allow employees to work remotely, if possible, to assist in reducing workplace contacts.
Manitoba currently leads the country in per-capita active COVID-19 cases. The province reported 365 new cases of the virus on Monday, as well as three additional deaths.
— With files from The Canadian Press