Manitoba continued to see surging COVID-19 infections on Monday as it ended its role in notifying most close contacts.
Public health officials will no longer notify close contacts, said the province’s website. Confirmed COVID-19 cases will be asked to tell contacts themselves.
The change was made as the province prepares for increasing cases due to the Omicron variant to “exceed public health contact notification resources,” the website said.
In some settings, including schools, health-care facilities and personal care homes, officials will continue to work with staff to inform close contacts.
COVID-19: Manitoba announces reduced capacity, group sizes amid Omicron scare
The province reported 807 new COVID-19 cases and six more deaths over the last three days. On Sunday, it marked its highest single-day number since June with 333 infections. There were 200 on Monday.
The province said in a news release that nine more cases of the Omicron variant were also identified for a total of 17.
There were 137 people hospitalized with COVID-19, 27 of whom were in intensive-care units.
The provincial five-day test positivity rate was eight per cent, and Manitoba is preparing for tightened restrictions on gatherings and capacity to come into effect Tuesday morning.
Places including gyms, movie theatres and restaurants — where people are required to be vaccinated — will be limited to half capacity.
Private indoor gatherings with vaccinated people are capped at household members plus 10 others. Gatherings with anyone unvaccinated will be limited to one household plus five guests.
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Churches that require proof of vaccination will be limited to half capacity, while those that do not require vaccination status will be limited to 25 people or 25 per cent capacity, whichever is less.
Health Minister Audrey Gordon has said the restrictions are necessary to curb the spread of the Omicron variant and to prevent long-term harm to an overburdened health-care system.
The tighter restrictions are to be in place for three weeks until Jan. 11.
Also, following the province’s request last week for military help, Ottawa announced Canadian Red Cross nurses will be arriving in Manitoba.
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Hospitals have begun prioritizing urgent surgeries and postponing elective and non-emergent procedures.
Dr. Ed Buchel, the provincial medical lead for surgery, said it was a difficult decision, but it was necessary to prepare for rising case numbers following holiday gatherings.
In particular, Buchel said, surgical staff are feeling frustrated about rural areas where vaccination rates remain much lower.
“It is frustrating for all of us,” he said. “We know the vaccines are available. We know the vaccines are safe.”
Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.
To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus. In some provinces and municipalities across the country, masks or face coverings are now mandatory in indoor public spaces.
For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, visit our coronavirus page.
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