Manitoba’s health minister says the province isn’t considering tighter public health restrictions in the face of rising COVID-19 case counts in the Southern Health region.
"I wouldn’t say that we’re considering restrictions. We’re monitoring the numbers every day. We’re monitoring the test-positivity rate, the number of individuals who are in hospital… We realize that it’s not just southern," Health Minister Audrey Gordon told the Free Press at an unrelated event Sunday.
"We want to remember that Manitoba has had some of the strictest public-health orders over the last 18 months, even when our cousins to the west of us were enjoying the summer and we were locked down… We continue to have a vaccine card."
Gordon said Manitoba’s current public health orders, as well as its vaccination campaign, "are working," adding that the province will continue to "monitor the numbers."
There are currently 529 active cases in Southern Health, according to the latest data released by the provincial government. There are 57 people in hospital – including 14 in ICU.
Since the pandemic started, 249 Southern Health residents have died of COVID-19.
On Friday, the province announced 51 new cases in Southern Health. That same day, 52 cases were announced in Winnipeg — which has a significantly higher population and a better vaccine uptake.
"Southern Health is just one of our regions where the numbers fluctuate up and down, and seem to be higher in the last little while. All of the regional health authorities have unique challenges that are unique just to their population and their groups — even here in Winnipeg," Gordon said.
"We’re monitoring the situation very closely in terms of the numbers of hospitalizations, in terms of the number of individuals who are in ICU — it’s been fairly stable over the weekend. But we continue to monitor and, if need be, we will take further steps."
When asked about a recent front-page story in the Globe and Mail that detailed wide-spread public health violations at church services, Gordon said she wished the Globe reporter had called Manitoba’s COVID-19 tip line.
"Our officers can’t be at every single location, which is why we depend on the public to report to us into our tip line. It’s unfortunate (the reporter) wrote an article," Gordon said.
"What I would have appreciated this person doing is phone in to that tip line and say, ‘I’m at this location. This is what I’m seeing,’ and then we can reroute one of our enforcement officers to that location."
When asked about Manitoba’s enforcement efforts, the health minister said that enforcement is an important and ongoing effort against the virus.
A Free Press review of provincial enforcement data shows that no businesses or churches in the region have been fined for COVID-19 public health violations in the past month.
The vaccination rate within the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority is currently at 89.9 per cent.
In Southern Health, the vaccination rate is 69.5 per cent — the lowest in the province.
Ryan Thorpe likes the pace of daily news, the feeling of a broadsheet in his hands and the stress of never-ending deadlines hanging over his head.