All local contacts of the province’s first case of the U.K. variant of the novel coronavirus have tested negative, Manitoba’s top doctor says.

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All local contacts of the province’s first case of the U.K. variant of the novel coronavirus have tested negative, Manitoba’s top doctor says.

On Friday, chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin commended both the man, who recently travelled to Africa and Europe, for not only self-isolating properly in his home when he returned, but also his family members who self-isolated as required.

All household members have been tested twice for COVID-19; both times the results were negative, the province said. The man's initial test sample was acquired Jan. 21.

"In this case, with or without the detection of the variant of concern, this individual had to self-isolate the entire time that they were infectious," Roussin said of the confirmed case of the worrisome B.1.1.7 variant.

"They self-isolated as appropriate. You can see there was no transmission even in the household... It is the public health measures, combined with all of the tools that we have, that will limit the introduction and spread of the variant of concern in Manitoba."

Roussin said scientists have been sequencing virus samples from 140 outbreaks in Manitoba since the pandemic reached the province in March 2020.

"We’ve identified many different variants that are even unique to Manitoba. We’ve only discovered the one variant of concern (B.1.1.7, discovered in the United Kingdom), which we announced (Tuesday)," he said.

Public health also announced four more pandemic deaths, all in Winnipeg: two men in their 70s; a man in his 80s; and a man in his 90s linked to an outbreak at Concordia Place care home.

The five-day test positivity rate was 4.8 per cent provincially; four per cent in Winnipeg.

Eighty-one new cases of the virus had been identified as of Friday morning: 28 in Southern Health region, 25 in Northern Health, 20 in Winnipeg, five in Interlake-Eastern, and three in Prairie Mountain.

So far, 30,588 Manitobans have tested positive for the virus since the pandemic began.

Roussin noted Friday was the first day of some pandemic restrictions being loosened, including allowing restaurants to open to 25 per cent of their capacity.

"Our numbers have been trending in a good direction," he said. "(But) we cannot take our foot off the gas. I've said a few times: we've been here before. If we do what we did in October, we will be back to November numbers.

"We'll be forced to go backwards."

There were 240 people in hospital due to COVID-19 (90 active cases). There were 11 active cases in the province's intensive care units, with a further 18 in ICU no longer infectious but still in need of critical care.

There were 1,972 tests completed by provincial labs Thursday.

New outbreaks have been declared at Seven Oaks General Hospital's 3U 4-7 unit and Riverview Health Centre's CD2 unit in Winnipeg.

Outbreaks were declared over at four Winnipeg personal care homes: Poseidon, Convalescent Home, Golden Door, and Golden West Centennial.

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority said in a statement that, currently, nine of 39 long-term care facilities in the city are dealing with an outbreak. Of those, three have an active resident case, five have at least one active staff case, and two have active cases with both residents and staff.

The WRHA said the Canadian Red Cross is still helping amidst an outbreak at Southeast care home. The WRHA is also monitoring outbreaks at Concordia Place and Holy Family Home.

Meanwhile, the majority of health-care workers who were redeployed to personal care homes when outbreaks were at their worst in October-January have gone back to their regular jobs, the WRHA said.

"We would like to commend all redeployed staff members who have worked shifts in PCHs over the past few months. Your willingness to assist in the fight against COVID-19 outbreaks has been tremendously appreciated."

The WRHA is working to create a dedicated staffing pool which care homes can draw from in future.

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.

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