Health minister hints at more restrictions as Manitoba’s COVID-19 numbers rise

Manitoba’s health minister says more restrictions are possible as COVID-19 numbers continue to rise, especially in the greater Winnipeg area.

Cameron Friesen said he is concerned about the latest numbers that show caseloads are still rising two weeks after the Winnipeg region was put under tighter rules that include a 10-person cap on public gatherings.

Friesen said there are other restrictions that could be imposed under the province’s colour-coded pandemic response system, which has Winnipeg in the orange — or restricted — category while the rest of the province is in the yellow — or caution — group.

“Whether that means additional closures or additional use of masks, or if it be additional other measures, those things will be contemplated,” Friesen said Wednesday.

“And if it is the advice of public health that now is the time to implement them, then we know that the chief provincial public health officer will so advise.”

Health officials reported 146 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, mostly in Winnipeg, and two more deaths.

Per capita, Manitoba has the second-highest number of active cases in the country behind Quebec, according to data on Health Canada’s website.

To try to stem the tide, the province imposed another round of restrictions in the greater Winnipeg area last week. Bars, pubs and licensed restaurants must close at 11 p.m. Alcohol service must stop an hour earlier.

Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont said a full lockdown should be one option under consideration, as long as the government is prepared to help people who are put out of work by the move.

“A lockdown has to be on the table,” Lamont said.

“But at the same time, if you’re going to tell people you can’t work, if you’re going to tell people you have to close your business, government has a responsibility to make sure that those people don’t go broke and that business doesn’t go under.”

Manitoba has had 2,925 COVID-19 cases to date. Health officials said 37 people have died and 27 were in hospital on Wednesday.

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