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This article was published 25/10/2021 (254 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Restrictions on retail shopping and enhanced COVID-19 quarantine measures are being lifted in some rural Manitoba communities as the province moved to extend current public-health orders for another three weeks.
The Town of Niverville and municipalities of Cartier, Headingley, Macdonald, Ritchot, St. Francois Xavier and Tache will no longer be subject to the retail capacity restrictions and tightened self-isolation requirements in the Southern Health-Sante Sud region as of Tuesday, said Chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin.
The decision to exempt the communities from restrictions placed on Southern Health was based on proximity to Winnipeg and stronger vaccination rates, Roussin said Monday.
"We included these municipalities in the capital region in wave 2, when we had Winnipeg in the red-restricted level. It makes sense to include them once again in the Winnipeg definition," he said.
Enhanced public-health orders for Southern Health, which were introduced Oct. 5 and tightened after Thanksgiving, will remain in effect throughout the rest of the region. The region had a vaccine uptake rate of 67.8 per cent as of Monday. The restrictions reduce retail capacity to 50 per cent and require anyone who lives with someone who has symptoms of COVID-19 or who was a close contact of someone with COVID-19 to self-isolate.
Niverville Mayor Myron Dyck said he was grateful to see the province’s top doctor change the order to exempt his town from the retail restrictions.
Dyck said he spoke with Roussin and other provincial officials last week and argued for his community, which has a vaccination rate of 83.4 per cent, to be exempt from the restrictions placed on Southern Health.
"To have a vaccination rate like we do, it felt like it didn't matter when we’re told, 'Well, you’re in with the rest of Southern Health.' So this now gives credibility saying it does matter," he said.
"If the province wants municipal leaders to be an advocate on behalf of vaccination, to incentivize people, you need to give us that authority to do so. And when we have a high vaccination rate, and then you still lump us in with those that have low vaccination rates, it makes it appear that it doesn’t matter."
Headingley Mayor John Mauseth also welcomed the news his community would be able to benefit from higher immunization levels.
"We were looking for some sort of consistency here. Based on the fact that our numbers are more in line with the city of Winnipeg, I think it was the appropriate call," he said.
All other pre-existing public-health orders remain in effect and will be reviewed ahead of Nov. 16, when the order is set to expire, Roussin said.
The province said 334 new infections were confirmed since its last update Friday, including 107 cases Saturday, 149 Sunday and 78 Monday. The five-day test-positivity rate was 3.9 per cent provincially and 1.7 per cent in Winnipeg, and 2,130 tests were performed Sunday.
Public health continues to see a high number of cases in the Southern Health region and isolated outbreaks in the North, though the virus is spreading in all regions, Roussin said.
Infections from Thanksgiving gatherings will also start showing up around this time, he noted.
"We saw a day on the weekend there with nearly 150 reported cases, so that’s higher than what we’ve typically seen, so we’re going to have to continue to follow those trends. We’re certainly not done with this fourth wave," Roussin said.
Manitoba’s pandemic death toll rose to 1,237 after two people died over the weekend; a man in his 70s from the Southern Health region and a man in his 80s from the Interlake-Eastern health region, both linked to unspecified variants.
A total of 83 patients were being treated for COVID-19 in hospital, including 20 in intensive care.
As of Monday, two acute-care patients had been transferred to another Manitoba facility in order to maintain capacity for non-urgent surgeries and diagnostics at high-acuity hospitals in Winnipeg, Shared Health said.
Under a new protocol triggered last week, Shared Health will transfer stable patients, primarily from high-acuity sites in Winnipeg, to facilities in rural and northern Manitoba that have capacity and staff.
"We recognize this can be unsettling and disruptive, and we will do our best to communicate plans as soon as they are made and to support patients and families through the process," Shared Health said in a statement. "Clinical teams are carefully matching the care needs of any patient identified as appropriate for transport, with the services and skilled staff at the receiving site."
Patient flow is a priority for the government and the health-care system is ensuring people "are at the right place, the right time and for the right amount of time," Health Minister Audrey Gordon said.
"That is very much a focus of the system right now, to ensure patient flow is occurring, so that we’re moving individuals out of our acute-care hospitals and making room in the event that we need the space in the ICU," she said.
Also Monday, public health declared three new COVID-19 outbreaks.
Springs Christian Academy’s Lagimodiere campus, Benito Personal Care Home and Light of the North Covenant Church in Thompson have been moved to red-critical on the province's pandemic response system.
According to the province, 13 cases have been reported at Springs Christian Academy’s Lagimodiere campus. The school's Youville campus is also in a declared outbreak.
Ten cases have been detected at the Benito Personal Care Home, including one staff member and nine residents.
Danielle Da Silva
Danielle Da Silva is a general assignment reporter.