4 more cases of omicron variant discovered in Manitoba

Four new confirmed cases of the omicron variant, also known as B.1.1.529, have been detected in Manitoba, a provincial news release says.

The news comes just one day after the first case of the coronavirus variant was reported in the province. 

One of the four people who tested positive for the newest variant of concern recently travelled to Manitoba from a federally advised country, while the other cases are close contacts and are currently asymptomatic, the province said.

The total number of omicron cases in Manitoba is five, the province said. 

Dr. Jazz Atwal, deputy chief provincial public health officer, said he knows the arrival of the omicron variant in Manitoba might create feelings of anxiety and concern for people who just want the pandemic to be over. 

“The news of a new foe in this fight is not what we wanted to hear and not what we wanted to hear ahead of a time of gathering together with friends and loved ones,” he said during a Wednesday news conference. 

But the arrival of the variant was not unexpected and the province is keeping a close eye on it, he said.

There is still a lot that is unknown about it, including whether it evades vaccine immunity, he said.

At this time, there are no pending changes to the current public health orders, he said. 

Manitoba also reported 178 new COVID-19 cases and three deaths on Wednesday. 

The three deaths reported Wednesday were a man in his 40s from the Southern Health region, a man his 90s from the Southern Health region linked to an outbreak at Salem Home personal care home, and a woman in her 100s from the Winnipeg health region.

The province also released more information about the four deaths reported Tuesday. They were:

  • A woman in her 90s from the Southern Health region, linked to an outbreak at Third Crossing Manor. 
  • A man in his 70s from the Southern Health region.
  • A man in his 80s from the Winnipeg health region.
  • A woman in her 80s from the Winnipeg health region.

The highest number of cases reported Wednesday was in the Southern Health region, with 89.

There were also 49 new cases in the Winnipeg health region, 16 each in the Prairie Mountain Health and Interlake-Eastern Health regions, and eight in the Northern Health region. 

The current five-day test positivity rate remains 6.4 per cent provincially, while in Winnipeg it’s 4.4 per cent.

There are now 153 patients in hospital with COVID-19. That includes 34 in intensive care, up two from Tuesday. 

Of those in hospital with active COVID-19, 62 per cent are unvaccinated, seven per cent are partly vaccinated and 31 per cent are fully vaccinated, the province’s online COVID-19 dashboard says.

When looking at ICU patients with active COVID-19, 96 per cent are not vaccinated, while four per cent are fully vaccinated. 

Atwal said despite some breakthrough cases, there is still significant evidence that vaccines work to prevent serious illness.

In Manitoba, the unvaccinated are 5.5 times more likely to become infected, 8.4 times more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19, 19 times more to end up in ICU with COVID-19, and 11.8 times more likely to die from a COVID-19 infection than those who are fully vaccinated, he said.

As of midnight Tuesday, there were 98 patients in Manitoba intensive care units, including patients with COVID and non-COVID patients. 

That’s 26 patients above the pre-pandemic baseline capacity, which was 72 patients. 

A new outbreak has been declared at the Misericordia Health Centre, in Transitional Care Unit C5, in Winnipeg. It’s been moved to the critical (red) level of the province’s pandemic response system.

Outbreaks have been declared over at J. R. Reid School in Brandon and the Benito Personal Care Home in Benito. 

WATCH | Full news conference on COVID-19 | December 8, 2021:

Manitoba government daily briefing on coronavirus: Dec. 8

3 hours ago

Duration 1:00:48

Provincial officials give update on COVID-19 outbreak: Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2021. 1:00:48

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