By Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG — Manitoba’s key COVID-19 numbers dropped to their lowest levels in weeks Monday, more than one month after restrictions were tightened on public gatherings and business openings.
The province reported 167 new cases and four deaths.
Both numbers haven’t been that low since before the government imposed a provincewide Code Red on Nov. 12, which limited public gatherings and required many stores to close. The restrictions were further tightened Nov. 20, when a ban on most social visits inside private homes took effect.
“Our case numbers are down today, which is definitely a positive,” said Dr. Jazz Atwal, the acting deputy chief provincial public health officer.
“However, we must remain vigilant. We can’t let these lower numbers lull us into a false sense of security.”
The number of people testing positive also dropped Monday to 11.5 per cent over a five-day average.
The number of new COVID-19 cases has been trending downward, slowly, in recent weeks. Hospitalization rates, however, have been stable and the demand for intensive care beds remains well above normal.
Atwal urged Manitobans to continue following public-health orders, which are to remain in effect until Jan. 8. Holiday gatherings with people outside one’s household should be done online or over the phone, he said.
Monday also marked the first appearance in weeks at the daily COVID-19 briefings by Health Minister Cameron Friesen. Premier Brian Pallister has been front and centre at the news conferences, alongside top health officials, since mid-November.
Pallister told The Canadian Press last week he is considering a cabinet shuffle that would include appointing a second health minister to share the workload brought on by the pandemic.
Friesen would not comment Monday on how his duties might change or when the shuffle might occur.
“That decision is not up to me and so it’s status quo until we hear otherwise,” Friesen said.
“Some provinces in Canada have two health ministers. Some have one. Certainly there is enough work to go around. But the key is teams. And we have some great teams in Manitoba that are supporting the work in health.”