Fewer than 300 COVID-19 tests were conducted in Manitoba March 23. One new probable case of the disease has been discovered, according to the provincial government.
Chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin said there is still a testing backlog because of a lack of reagent, a substance added to tests that shows the presence of the virus.
“Due to a worldwide shortage of reagent, Manitoba is prioritizing testing to those most at risk,” he said.
“This includes testing from First Nations, individuals in hospital or long term care facilities as well as healthcare workers. The Cadham Provincial Laboratory is working on a solution and we hope to be able to increase testing later this week.”
Manitoba has tested over 4,500 people for COVID-19, with 21 people testing positive. As of March 23, Saskatchewan has tested 5,269 people, with 66 cases reported.
All confirmed cases in Manitoba have been linked to recent travel, which Roussin said matches up with what was seen in the first provinces to find the disease.
“As you get more and more introduction of the virus into your jurisdiction, then the more likely it becomes community transmission will occur,” he said.
“We look just like them. We're just at different stages of the outbreak.”
Almost half of all confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Canada are community transmitted.
“We're preparing for community transmission,” Roussin said.
“We were given the benefit of time on this, so we were able to implement many of our social distancing strategies before [community transmission] occurred.”
Officials reiterated that direct testing was only one way of tracking the virus. The provincial message regarding self-isolation and social distancing has remained the same.
“Testing is important, but it is only one piece of our overall strategy,” Roussin said.
“If you are sick and you stay home, whether you're tested or not, you are not going to transmit a virus.”
Manitoba officials continue to reiterate that anyone returning from international travel should self-isolate for 14 days and monitor for symptoms, along with handwashing and social distancing strategies.
“We definitely are not helpless against this virus,” Roussin said.
“We see people taking steps and measures every day. We will continue in public health to escalate our response to this outbreak as required. We have the ability to protect ourselves, protect the people around us and to protect our community.”
Later today, the federal government is expected to pass an $82 billion aid package to help Canadians affected by the pandemic.