By Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG — The Manitoba government won’t ease COVID-19 restrictions on social gatherings, travel and business operations for at least three more weeks, the province’s top doctor said Thursday.
“We need to be safe, we need to practise those fundamentals,” Dr. Brent Roussin said.
“We see these third waves in other jurisdictions. We will see it here.”
The province is tweaking a couple of restrictions as of Friday — golf courses will be allowed to serve liquor from carts and self-help groups will have their maximum attendance raised to 25 people from 15.
The major restrictions, however, will remain unchanged at least until the end of April, Roussin said.
Public gatherings remain capped at five people indoors and 25 outdoors. Retail stores stay limited at half capacity. Restaurants have to ensure people dining indoors at the same table are from the same household. People arriving in Manitoba from other provinces also have to self-isolate for two weeks.
Health officials reported 139 new COVID-19 cases and three deaths Thursday. Two earlier cases were removed due to data correction for a net increase of 137.
The number of daily new cases has crept upward in recent weeks, and a growing number involve variants of concern.
Roussin said the death of a Winnipeg man reported in late March has since been determined to have involved the B.1.1.7. variant first detected in the United Kingdom.
He also said the province is working to get more vaccines distributed. Premier Brian Pallister got his first dose of the Pfizer vaccine Thursday morning at a mass vaccination centre in Winnipeg.
“I encourage all Manitobans to roll up their sleeves and get a vaccine as soon as you are eligible,” Pallister said in a written statement.
Manitoba’s opposition parties have criticized the Progressive Conservative government for the pace of vaccine distribution. For the general population without major underlying health conditions, vaccines are available to First Nations people aged 42 and up and to others aged 62 and up.
“We’ve seen a stubborn resistance towards innovating and improving the approach to the vaccine rollout from the government,” NDP Leader Wab Kinew said.
The government reported another 12,300 doses delivered in its daily statistical release. Many were doses delivered earlier and updated Thursday because of a backlog in data entry, Roussin said.
“We’re focused on getting vaccines into arms,” he said.
“So having people typing it into the computer obviously is necessary — obviously we need to have good data reporting on it — but our primary focus is just getting that dose into people’s arms.”
He said changes are underway to ensure the vaccine numbers are updated more quickly.