People arrived in Winnipeg from one COVID-19 hot spot — B.C. — just as another province with a massive outbreak — Ontario — said it would tighten its border with Manitoba, including to cottagers
Passengers who landed in Winnipeg Friday after a flight from Vancouver — a hot zone for the vicious P.1 variant — said they knew about Manitoba’s mandatory 14-day self-isolation period and planned to abide by it. However, there's no mechanism to ensure that they do.
Manitoba confirmed its first case of the P.1 variant on Thursday. A resident of the Interlake-Eastern Health Region tested positive for the variant after returning from non-essential travel outside the province.
British Columbia has recorded 1,532 cases, two-thirds of which were found in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, which includes the Whistler ski resort — a hotbed of the P.1 variant.
That’s more than seven times the number reported in Ontario, the province with the next highest count of the P.1 variant.
The strain, first identified in Brazil, spreads more easily and is more likely to cause severe illness than the original strain of COVID-19, said Dr. Anand Kumar, a University of Manitoba professor of medicine.
On top that, he said it seems to be more resistant to vaccines.
"That’s not to say the vaccine doesn’t work," he said. "It just doesn’t work as well."
He said vaccines will still likely protect people from severe illness and, to an extent, from contracting COVID-19.
On Friday, Dr. Jazz Atwal, acting deputy chief provincial public health officer, would not say if Manitoba would put up information checkpoints on provincial borders to limit non-essential travel, as it had in the first few months of the pandemic.
Instead, a spokesperson for the province said in an email that "Manitobans are strongly discouraged from all non-essential travel," and "electronic signage is posted at major highway routes as travellers enter the province from the east, west and south."
Ontario announced Friday it would set up checkpoints at the Manitoba and Quebec borders to restrict movement to essential travel, but there would be exceptions for people who live and work on either side of the border. The orders made it clear that only people with a principal residence would be allowed in, meaning cottagers would be unable to travel to their property.
Ontario also gave police officers the authority to require anyone they stop to provide the reason for travelling.
The arrivals from Vancouver said they’d learned they needed to self-isolate when they got to Winnipeg, mostly by word of mouth from relatives or friends in the city.
Three signs painted onto pillars near the baggage claim and two electronic screens list Manitoba’s self-isolation requirements.
Tyler MacAfee of the Winnipeg Airports Authority said the airport tries to inform people who arrive in the city.
"We don’t enforce the rules, because we have no mandate to do that," he said. "But we certainly see a place for ourselves on the education side."
A representative from Air Canada said passengers are reminded several times to check restrictions in place at their destination.