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While Manitobans in the southern part of the province were free to pursue retail stores deals, Sunday's latest coronavirus figures were a reminder that the challenges of COVID-19 remain particularly acute in northern Manitoba.

Another 222 cases of the virus were reported by public health officials on Sunday. More than half of the new cases were once again in the hard-hit Northern health region, where 116 new cases were identified. In Winnipeg, 61 cases were reported, followed by 22 cases in Prairie Mountain Health, 20 cases in Interlake-Eastern and three cases in Southern Health.

The continued high numbers in the north have brought calls for increased vigilance.

Earlier this week, Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Grand Chief Garrison Settee said access to rapid testing needs to be readily available in all local First Nations, including the 26 northern communities represented by MKO.

The rising figures in the north comes as the province relaxes restrictions elsewhere. Pandemic restrictions were loosened in southern Manitoba as of Saturday, but three more deaths highlighted the fact the virus is still having a deadly effect where case counts have dropped as well.

A man in his 80s connected to an outbreak at the McCreary/Alonsa Health Centre in the Prairie Mountain Health region, along with two women in their 90s from the Winnipeg region, were reported dead on Sunday. Both women were also linked to personal care home outbreaks — one at Holy Family Personal Care Home and the other at Concordia Place.

The total of 799 Manitobans have died from COVID-19. The province said in its Sunday release that one death, previously reported as COVID-19-related case, had been removed from its totals.

The five-day test positivity rate is 10.6 per cent provincially and 6.4 per cent in Winnipeg.

Currently, there are 3,521 active cases of the virus. There are 278 people who remain hospitalized — including 42 patients in intensive care.

Laboratory testing numbers show 1,956 tests were completed yesterday, bringing the total number of lab tests completed since early February 2020 to 465,040.