ontario news watch

Manitobans are having house parties, play dates and sleepovers, top doctor says

WINNIPEG — The Manitoba government will likely soon impose tougher public-health orders, partly because some people have lost sight of the measures needed to contain the spread of COVID-19, the province’s chief public health officer says.

“Our case investigations … are showing that people are holding larger gatherings in their private residences,” Roussin said Monday.

“We’re seeing house parties, we’re seeing play dates, we’re seeing sleepovers. We’re seeing cases with many more contacts than we saw in the recent past and we’re seeing this contribute to the transmission of the virus.”

Manitoba already has a wide set of restrictions in place. Public gatherings are limited to five people indoors and 25 outdoors. Stores, restaurants and churches face attendance caps. People can only have members of one other household visit their homes, and anyone entering the province is required to isolate for 14 days.

But with a rising number of cases, driven by more-contagious variants of the novel coronavirus, more measures are likely in the coming days, Roussin said.

One recent traveller returned from another western province and did not self-isolate as required, Roussin said. Five households have been impacted by that individual’s decision, he added. 

Among the possible new measures, Roussin said, is a requirement to wear masks at any outdoor gathering. Mask use is currently required only in indoor public areas, but Roussin said close contact outdoors is not risk-free.

Roussin put forward the idea as a strong recommendation Monday, while the government eyes making it mandatory.

Health officials reported 114 new COVID-19 cases and no additional deaths. 

Manitoba has not seen a full-blown third wave of the pandemic as of yet, but there are signs it has started. 

The daily case count has been rising in recent weeks, and the percentage of people testing positive is up as well. The five-day test-positivity average Monday stood at 6.2 per cent provincially and 5.6 per cent in Winnipeg.

“I think the third wave is here. How hard it hits us is up to us,” Roussin said.

The Opposition New Democrats called on the Progressive Conservative government to speed up vaccine distribution. Roughly 20 per cent of adults in the province had received at least one dose as of Monday, according to government data, and doses received to date are scheduled to be used within seven days. 

“We need to really see (the vaccines) distributed with the urgency that Manitobans want,” NDP Leader Wab Kinew said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 12, 2021

Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press