‘The Delta variant is changing the game’: Updated COVID-19 modelling outlines the potential impact of the fourth wave in Manitoba

WINNIPEG — Fuelled by the Delta variant and limited immunization, Manitoba could head into a fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic that would overwhelm hospitals this fall, according to the latest modelling released by the province on Tuesday.

The modelling, which includes the Delta variant for the first time, in addition to immunization data, shows Manitoba is currently in a controlled scenario when it comes to new cases and vaccinations.

“The Delta variant is changing the game,” said Dr. Jazz Atwal, deputy chief provincial public health officer.

During the briefing, Atwal said more than 24 per cent of the eligible population 12 years of age and older are not fully immunized with two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, and children under 12 still are not eligible for the vaccine.

“This accounts for just over 400,000 people in Manitoba,” Atwal said.

As of Tuesday, 81.4 per cent of Manitobans 12 and older have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, while 75.6 per cent have received both doses.

Atwal said a fourth wave is expected to occur due to the faster spread of the Delta variant, and not enough people being fully immunized.

“In an extreme scenario, the model shows that COVID-19 can overwhelm the acute care system within two months after a fourth wave begins,” he said, adding under the extreme scenario, ICU capacity needs could reach 80 beds for COVID-19 alone within one month of the fourth wave beginning.

“Without higher levels of immunizations, and without stricter public health measures, significant levels of ICU occupancy could be expected this fall.”

Atwal said the fourth wave could be made worse if cases surge during the annual flu season.

The Delta variant is already causing a significant increase in cases throughout Western Canada in provinces that loosened restrictions earlier than Manitoba.

“We can see what’s happening in other jurisdictions.We know that fourth wave is heading in our direction,” said Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief public health officer, during a news conference on Tuesday.

Recent data shows the majority of new infections are occurring among the unvaccinated. Atwal said that of the 27 new COVID-19 cases announced on Monday 21 were in unvaccinated individuals.

Atwal said in addition to vaccinations, Manitobans need to continue practising public health measures, including regular handwashing and physical distancing.

Premier Brian Pallister and Dr. Brent Roussin announced on Tuesday that provincial health-care workers, teachers and others will be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19, and masks will be required in indoor public spaces, including schools, in the coming weeks.

The modelling can be found below.

-With files from The Canadian Press

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