Since the full effect of the spread of COVID-19 during holiday gatherings is not yet fully known, it's too soon to expect pandemic restrictions to be loosened, Manitoba leaders say.

"I don't think there's going to be any significant change," Premier Brian Pallister said at a news conference Wednesday morning. The current provincewide code red restrictions are set to expire at midnight Saturday.

However, Pallister said he's waiting for medical and public health experts to say when it's safe to relax the province's pandemic response.

At an afternoon news conference, deputy chief provincial public health officer Dr. Jazz Atwal said nearly 60 COVID-19 cases and 400 close contacts have been linked to recent holiday gatherings.

"We have been worried about a spike following the holidays, and those numbers will influence the decisions about what kind of changes can be made to the restrictions in the coming days," Atwal said.

On Wednesday, the province reported 176 new COVID-19 cases, and 10 more deaths.

Manitobans have been under code red restrictions for nearly three months, but until test positivity and hospitalization rates fall, they need to remain in place, Atwal said.

The current five-day COVID-19 test positivity rate is 10.4 per cent provincially, and 11.5 per cent in Winnipeg. The rate needs to be closer to five per cent to get COVID-19 spread under control, according the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

On Wednesday, Manitoba had 329 COVID-19 hospitalizations: 237 with active COVID-19, as well as 92 who are no longer infectious but continue to require care.

There were 37 pandemic patients in intensive care units: 32 with active COVID-19, and five who are no longer infectious but continue to require critical care.

The death toll from COVID-19 in Manitoba has reached 705.

The 10 deaths reported Wednesday include: a woman in her 40s from Northern Health; a man in his 70s from Interlake–Eastern; a man in his 70s linked to an outbreak at Golden Links Lodge (Winnipeg); a woman in her 80s, a man in his 80s and a woman in her 90s linked to an outbreak at Seven Oaks General Hospital 4U8-12 (Winnipeg); and a man in his 80s, two women in their 90s and a man in his 90s from the Winnipeg region.

Of the 176 new cases, 109 were in Winnipeg, 31 in Northern Health, 13 in Southern Health, 12 in Prairie Mountain, and 11 in Interlake-Eastern.

On Tuesday, 1,845 COVID-19 tests were completed at provincial labs.

Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders
Legislature reporter

After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.

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