Manitoba’s top doctor to give surprise COVID-19 update amid growing case numbers in Winnipeg

People in and around Winnipeg will have to wear masks in indoor public places and restrict gatherings to 10 people starting Monday, as the region moves to restricted orange under the pandemic response system.

Surrounding communities also subject to the new rules are Selkirk, Niverville, Stonewall, Dunnottar and the rural municipalities of Cartier, Headingley, Macdonald, Ritchot, Rockwood, Rosser, Springfield, St. Andrews, St. Clements, St. François Xavier, Taché, West St. Paul and East St. Paul.

The new rules will stay for at least four weeks, or two incubation periods of the illness, Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin said at a surprise news conference Friday afternoon, and more restrictions may be brought in at any time.

There are 54 new cases of COVID-19 in Manitoba on Friday, Roussin said, including 44 in the Winnipeg health region.

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Manitoba’s top doctor will speak at an impromptu COVID-19 news conference Friday afternoon, as the active caseload in Winnipeg grows and tighter restrictions have been suggested for the city.

Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin said Thursday that roughly half of the city’s recent cases of the illness were in young people who were out at bars, pubs and restaurants during the time they contracted it.

Winnipeg’s trajectory is moving in the wrong direction, Roussin said, asking people in the city to cut down on time spent at enclosed, crowded gatherings and reconsider plans for large events like Thanksgiving.

As of Thursday afternoon, more than 80 per cent of Manitoba’s active cases of the illness were in Winnipeg.

More than half the new cases announced that day were among people in their 20s.

There have been calls from public figures, including Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman and Winnipeg Jets captain Blake Wheeler, to make masks mandatory as the city’s active caseload swells.

Roussin has not yet brought in more restrictions, such as mandatory face masks or smaller group sizes, for people in Winnipeg.

But on Thursday, he said in the strongest terms yet that he’s contemplating flipping that switch and moving Winnipeg to caution orange under the province’s colour-coded pandemic response system — but he wanted to focus on public messaging first.

The surge in COVID-19 cases in Winnipeg has led to a spike in demand for testing in the city, causing long lineups and hours-long waits at test sites.

Roussin said the province is looking into possible new ways of testing to alleviate some of this pressure, but cautioned it’s too early to say whether Manitoba will follow Ontario’s lead by offering the test in pharmacies.

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