No further public health restrictions have been announced to counter high COVID-19 infection rates in lower-vaccinated areas of the province, and none are currently being planned, Manitoba's top doctor says.
Despite publicly dropping hints earlier this month more restrictions could be on the way, chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin said Wednesday there is nothing in the works right now.
"It's a little difficult to know the effects of the restrictions that we implemented most recently. We look at a number of things as we move forward," he said during a virtual news conference.
Public health is still looking at case counts, transmission trends and test positivity rates, but severe health outcomes, such as hospitalizations and ICU stays, are what would drive further restrictions, Roussin said.
"We don't have any immediate plans on that," he said Wednesday when asked about future restrictions.
Roussin said he's still concerned about the high transmission of the novel coronavirus, particularly in the Southern Health region, which has the lowest vaccination rates in Manitoba. Any further public health orders would have to target unvaccinated Manitobans, he suggested, but didn't offer any specifics on any additional actions under consideration.
"I wouldn't say I'm confident that no further restrictions will be required. I'm certainly concerned about that level of transmission we're seeing."
Roussin and provincial Health Minister Audrey Gordon both said during a Nov. 12 news conference they could impose new restrictions on short notice and would not hesitate to do so.
"We do have other measures that we can take, and so I will be looking with Dr. Roussin and public health officials at the numbers and the cases, and we may be back here as early as next week," Gordon said at the time.
The number of intensive care admissions in Manitoba is relatively stable, Roussin said. But case counts are still going up and could continue to climb for the next few weeks. Manitoba still has one of the highest infection rates among the provinces.
There were 147 new cases, three additional deaths, and a provincewide test positivity rate of 5.9 per cent recorded Wednesday.
Manitoba is also reducing the amount of public data it will supply as the pandemic continues.
Roussin announced Wednesday 98 per cent of COVID-19 cases in the province are caused by the delta variant. Since the variant is overwhelmingly dominant, the province will no longer specifically indicate in its data when cases are linked to variants of concern. If a new variant of concern pops up, Roussin said, officials will report it.
"It's not really serving much of a purpose to continue that reporting (of the delta variant)," he said.
"We're certainly surveilling for new variants of concern, surveilling for a change in transmission patterns or levels of severity, so certainly, if we see something that makes us change our mind on that, then absolutely, we'll adjust our approach."
After Nov. 26, the province will no longer publicly post online lists of potential public exposures to COVID-19 on flights, trains and other transportation. The change reflects the requirement for travellers over age 12 to be fully vaccinated, Roussin said, and won't change contact tracing processes or other requirements the province has to report certain travel cases to the federal Public Health Agency of Canada.
Katie May reports on courts, crime and justice for the Free Press.