Manitoba logs 13 new cases of COVID-19 variants of concern

Thirteen more COVID-19 cases caused by a highly contagious novel coronavirus variant were confirmed Tuesday in Manitoba — including three where the source of the infection remains unknown.

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This article was published 09/03/2021 (575 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Thirteen more COVID-19 cases caused by a highly contagious novel coronavirus variant were confirmed Tuesday in Manitoba — including three where the source of the infection remains unknown.

In an afternoon news release, provincial officials said eight additional cases caused by the B.1.351 variant (first detected in South Africa) and five additional cases caused by the B.1.1.7 variant (first detected in the United Kingdom) had been found in Manitoba.

“The cases identified today are all from the Winnipeg health region, with the majority being either travel or close-contact related,” the province said.

However, in response to questions from the Free Press, a provincial spokesperson confirmed three of the cases are of unknown acquisition — meaning public health investigators have not been able to link the infection to travel or another known variant case.

Of the total 22 variant cases found in Manitoba, 11 are close contacts to a known case and eight are related to travel, the province said.

The National Microbiology Lab has fired two scientists who sent virus samples to China and were accused of unspecified policy breaches. (Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press files)

“We are continuing with case investigations, particularly for the unknown acquisition cases, and will notify the public if there is widespread risk identified,” the spokesperson said.

No additional information was provided about when the three cases with unknown acquisition were first detected. Public health officials did not hold a media briefing Tuesday.

The day prior, chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin announced all viable COVID-19 samples collected since the start of February would be screened for the B.1.351 variant.

It wasn’t until the last week of February that Cadham Provincial Laboratory began routinely screening for B.1.351, after validating its test for the variant.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES Dr. Brent Roussin, chief provincial public health officer: “We don’t anticipate that there are significant, immediate risks right now."

The province refined its process to screen for B.1.1.7 in mid-February.

The additional scrutiny was needed to better understand how the variant might be impacting the population and ensure cases had not been overlooked, Roussin said.

Most of the B.1.351 cases announced Tuesday were found through retroactive screening.

All COVID-19 samples flagged in a screening test are sent to the Winnipeg-based National Microbiology Lab to confirm the presence of a variant. About five per cent of all positive samples are also sent for genetic sequencing.

Provincial officials will only announce variants of concern cases after receiving confirmation from the federal lab.

Across Canada, all provinces have reported confirmed cases involving variants of concern, with some jurisdictions logging community spread of the mutated viruses, which are more contagious than what is commonly found in Manitoba.

Ontario has reported 964 total variant cases, with the majority being B.1.1.7. Seventeen P.1 variants of concern, which has been found in Brazil and could potentially cause reinfection, have been found in that province.

Alberta has reported 659 cases caused by a variant of concern; B.C. has found 394; Saskatchewan has reported 44, as of Tuesday.

On Tuesday, the Manitoba government said it has yet to find evidence of “widespread community transmission” of either variant of concern.

“Case investigations continue and the public will be informed should the risk profile change,” the province said.

Manitoba has recorded 11 cases of B.1.1.7 and 11 of B.1.351, for a total of 22.

The province’s top doctor has warned Manitobans need to remain vigilant to delay the introduction of variants of concern into the community.

Should either B.1.1.7 or B.1.351 gain a foothold, it could quickly spread and increase daily case counts and place renewed pressure on the province’s health-care system, frustrating the government’s economic reopening plans, Roussin has said.

Meanwhile, another 66 COVID-19 infections were recorded Tuesday in Manitoba and another Winnipegger has died from the disease: a woman in her 70s.

The provincial pandemic death toll is 907.

However, due to data correction, one previously reported death has been removed from the totals. A provincial spokesperson said the death of a Winnipeg woman in her 20s (reported March 4) was removed because after further review, it was not related to COVID-19.

New infections were reported in all but one health region: Winnipeg notched 19 cases, Northern Health had 36, Southern Health reported seven, and four were found in Interlake-Eastern. No cases were reported in Prairie Mountain.

The five-day test-positivity rate for the province was 3.8 per cent, and 2.7 per cent in Winnipeg. Just 1,235 tests were processed Monday by provincial laboratories.

The number of people in hospital with COVID-19 also improved slightly: 163 patients were receiving treatment Tuesday for COVID-19, including 22 in intensive care.

An outbreak at Riverview Health Centre in Winnipeg has also concluded.

danielle.dasilva@freepress.mb.ca

Danielle Da Silva

Danielle Da Silva
Reporter

Danielle Da Silva is a general assignment reporter.

History

Updated on Tuesday, March 9, 2021 2:59 PM CST: Changes number of cases of each variant of concern after province issued correction.

Updated on Tuesday, March 9, 2021 6:18 PM CST: updates headline

Updated on Tuesday, March 9, 2021 6:27 PM CST: Adds photo

Updated on Tuesday, March 9, 2021 6:28 PM CST: Fixes layout

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