The Manitoba government is considering lifting some COVID-19 restrictions later this week - but, due to a high number of active cases, not in the north.
Manitoba's current health orders will remain in effect until Friday, at which time provincial health officials have suggested restrictions may be changed.
Officials stopped short of saying what changes will actually be in the next set of health orders, but suggested some possible changes, many of which were suggested by an online survey on the provincial government's engagemb.ca website.
Changes under consideration include expanding limits for household gatherings, including allowing two additional people to visit a household and allowing outdoor visits for up to five people on private property. Other changes include allowing stores to sell non-essential products for in-store shoppers, eliminating the essential items list, reopening services like hair salons to 25 per cent capacity with distancing and allowing non-regulated health services, like podiatrists, to reopen.
While none of these changes are written in stone, one thing appears to be - these changes are unlikely to happen in the north.
"Given the high case counts in northern Manitoba and in many First Nations, [Manitoba chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent] Roussin noted that in order to protect those vulnerable communities, any proposed changes would most likely only apply to communities in the Winnipeg, Southern Health–Santé Sud, Interlake–Eastern and Prairie Mountain Health regions," reads a provincial government news release issued Jan. 19.
If changes are rolled out as indicated, they would apply everywhere in the province except for the Northern Health Region (NHR). Retail locations outside of Flin Flon, The Pas and Thompson have been able to sell non-essential items throughout the latest round of restrictions, but businesses in those three communities have been limited in what goods can be offered on store floors.
Within the NHR, the region currently has 1,459 active cases of COVID-19, almost half of the province's total number of active cases. The most cases are in the Island Lake district, which now has two areas of widespread community infections in Red Sucker Lake and Garden Hill. The district is up to 509 active cases as of Tuesday.
The Flin Flon/Snow Lake/Cranberry Portage/Sherridon health district reported three new cases of COVID-19 Tuesday, bringing it up to 20 active cases. Including recoveries and one death tied to COVID-19 by the province, 57 people have tested positive for the disease in the district since the pandemic began.
The provincial government's engagemb.ca survey received more than 67,500 total responses, with a high number of respondents saying health orders should be approached by region (85 per cent) and that any reopening must be done gradually (85 per cent), along with many agreeing that the province's health care system must be kept stable (80 per cent).
In the survey, 77 per cent of people said gathering with people outside their household was something they considered important, with 74 per cent of people listing the ability to shop without restrictions and 70 per cent of people saying that visiting a barber or hairstylist was important.
The province's official announcement on the next slate of health orders will come later this week.
Other areas with high levels of active COVID-19 cases within the NHR include the Shamattawa/York Factory/Tataskweyak/Split Lake (342 active cases), Bunibonibee/Oxford House/Manto Sipi/Gods River/Gods Lake (160 active cases), Lynn Lake/Marcel Colomb/Leaf Rapids/O-Pipon-Na-Piwin/Granville Lake (91 active cases), Thompson/Mystery Lake (82 active cases) and The Pas/OCN/Kelsey (71 active cases) districts.
Since the pandemic began, 3,010 northerners have tested positive - over four per cent of the region's residents, or one in every 25 people. Twenty-nine people have died from the disease in the north.
Province-wide, cases are beginning to drop, but Tuesday saw the province announce 111 new cases of COVID-19, pushing Manitoba's active case load back over 3,000 people. It now sits at 3,088 total people. A total of 11 deaths were announced from COVID-19 Tuesday, none of which were reported in northern Manitoba. There are now 279 Manitobans in hospital due to COVID-19, 37 of which are in intensive care.
Canada's middle province continues to outpace Manitoba in new cases, reporting another 309 new cases of COVID-19 and six new deaths. Of those 309 new cases, 18 were found in the far north east zone, including 12 new cases in the far north east 2 health zone.which includes Creighton, Denare Beach, Pelican Narrows, Sandy Bay and other communities in the region. There are now 70 active cases in the far north east 2 health zone.
|Cases by northern Manitoba district||active cases||recoveries||deaths||total cases|
|Bunibonibee/Oxford House/Manto Sipi/Gods River/Gods Lake||160||99||5||264|
|Churchill (covered by Winnipeg Regional Health Authority)||0||1||0||1|
|Flin Flon/Snow Lake/Cranberry Portage/Sherridon||20||36||1||57|
|Grand Rapids/Misipawistik/Moose Lake/Mosakahiken/Easterville/Chemawawin||30||187||4||221|
|Lynn Lake/Marcel Colomb/Leaf Rapids/O-Pipon-Na-Piwin/Granville Lake||91||109||3||203|
|Sayisi Dene/Tadoule/Barren Lands/Brochet/Northlands/Lac Brochet||8||13||0||21|
|Shamattawa/York Factory/Tataskweyak/Split Lake||342||37||1||380|
|Case totals as of Jan. 19||1459||1522||29||3010|