Spike of delta variant in Manitoba could bring on fourth wave, ICU doctor warns

WINNIPEG — The province of Manitoba has reported a spike in the delta variant of concern—a highly transmissible variant that one ICU doctor warns could bring on the fourth wave of the pandemic if the province reopens too quickly.

Cases of the delta variant—also referred to as the B.1.617.2 variant—jumped in Manitoba over the weekend. The provincial dashboard recorded 54 new cases of the variant since the last update on June 4, 2021.

As of Tuesday, the province has recorded 61 total cases of the delta variant. Of these cases, four are considered active and 56 have recovered.

One death has been linked to the delta variant in Manitoba.

“This spike is to be expected,” said Dr. Anand Kumar, a Winnipeg intensive care physician and infectious disease specialist.

“This delta variant as I said is significantly more infectious, and there are two other factors that make it particularly more dangerous.”

Kumar said the delta variant appears to be resistant to immunity—meaning if Manitobans were infected with other variants of COVID-19, they could still be infected with the delta variant.

The second concern with the variant is it is relatively vaccine resistant, Kumar said.

“If you’ve gotten a single dose of the vaccine—your protection is pretty minimal,” he said, adding there won’t be significant protection against the delta variant until about 70 per cent of the population is fully vaccinated.

Kumar’s concerns are echoed by experts who have called the delta variant a “wild card,” saying it has grown at a faster rate compared to other variants.

READ MORE: Delta variant heightens urgency for second doses to stop spread, scientists say

While there are currently only 61 cases of the delta variant in Manitoba, Kumar said it has potential to explode.

He said the province needs to bring down its daily COVID-19 case counts and test positivity rate substantially before considering reopening.

“If we open up earlier than we should, we will be looking at a fourth wave in early fall and that is something I think would be very dangerous,” he said.

“If we are going to get a fourth wave—which I think we will if we release our restrictions early—it will be delta.”

According to the provincial dashboard, there have been four new cases of the B.1.617 variant and six new cases of the B.1.617.1 variant. As of Tuesday, the province also added one case of the B.1.617.3 variant.

In total, as of Tuesday, the province has recorded 83 cases of the B.1.617 variant and its sub lineages. 

This is a developing story. More to come. 

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