Officials recommend no travel outside Manitoba, identify new case of COVID-19

WINNIPEG — Manitoba's chief public health officer on Monday urged people to cancel all non-essential travel as he announced another case of COVID-19 in the province.

"I'm strongly advising all Manitobans, including health-care providers, to cancel or postpone any non-essential travel outside of Manitoba," Dr. Brent Roussin said.

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"This travel advice is regarding international travel as well as travel within Canada."

Roussin noted that all of Manitoba's cases so far have been related to travel.

Roussin said anyone who returns from either international or domestic travel should self-isolate for 14 days.

"I want to make clear that this is not just a suggestion."

The directive, however, does not apply to the transportation of goods and services, or to people who live in border communities and need to travel for basics such as groceries, he added.

The latest case of the novel coronavirus involves a man in his 50s from Winnipeg and is believed to be travel-related. Roussin said one other previous probable case was found not to be the virus.

That means the number of people infected in Manitoba remained at 20. Fourteen have been confirmed by the national laboratory in Winnipeg.

No one was in hospital due to COVID-19, Roussin said. One person previously hospitalized has been released.

The Manitoba government declared a state of emergency last week that limits gatherings to 50 people but allows most retail stores to remain open.

Premier Brian Pallister said the province is not ruling out following Ontario and other provinces that have imposed much stricter measures, but, for now, he feels the current rules are adequate.

"We are reaping the benefits of the early educational initiatives that we took," said Pallister, who was referring to efforts to persuade people to stay home as much as possible and to practise social distancing.

"As far as other steps ... they're all under discussion and we will always be focusing on getting the best possible input and advice, and staying ahead of the curve to flatten it."

The government launched a new website Monday that connects people who need help with groceries, snow-clearing and other tasks with those volunteering to help. The site — Help Next Door MB — matches people based on location and what type of chores they need done or are willing to do.

More than 4,300 COVID-19 tests have been done in the province. Results for health-care workers, people in hospitals or long-term care homes and First Nations residents are being prioritized.

Roussin said there is a backlog at the provincial testing lab due to diminishing supplies of reagent, a substance needed to do tests. The lab is working to create its own reagent and Roussin said he hopes the facility will be back up to capacity this week.

When asked about concerns that there is not enough testing being done, Lanette Siragusa, chief nursing officer, said there are several ways health-care professionals can observe the effect of the virus. She also noted there were still low levels of emergency room visits.

"We aren't seeing COVID-19 in our hospitals at this time."

Officials also announced home-care workers will be screening clients over the phone before entering homes to determine if there could be a risk of exposure to COVID-19 in the household.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 23, 2020

— With files from Steve Lambert

© Souris Plaindealer

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