Manitoba extended public health restrictions targeting gatherings, workplaces and retail establishments on Thursday, as the province’s hospitals continue to face immense pressure from a third wave of COVID-19 infections.
The revised orders also mean hundreds of Manitoba schools will remain closed for at least another week, Premier Brian Pallister and Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin announced at the afternoon news conference.
“Our health-care system is under great strain,” Roussin said.
Under the extension, a ban on indoor and outdoor social gatherings outside of one’s household, which was due to expire Saturday, will now run until June 12.
Non-essential retail businesses are limited to 10 per cent capacity or 100 occupants, whichever is lower, and only one person per household is allowed to enter a store. Gyms, restaurants, bars, personal service businesses, museums, galleries and libraries will remain closed.
Employers are also ordered to allow employees to work from home wherever possible. Roussin said the current public health orders have been tweaked to add new powers for public health officials to shut down businesses with multiple cases among staff.
As well, public schools in Winnipeg, Brandon and some other areas that have switched to remote learning will have to continue to do so until at least the week of June 7.
Manitoba reported 297 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, continuing a recent downward trend in single-day new case numbers. But the province continues to have the highest infection rate in Canada, and hospitals have so far sent at least 28 of its sickest COVID-19 patients out of province to free up ICU bed space.
On Wednesday, health officials confirmed that a Manitoban with COVID-19 died this week after an attempt was made to transport the patient out of the province to receive care.
WATCH | Manitoban with COVID-19 dies after attempted transfer out of province:
Not including those sent out of province, hospitalizations due to COVID-19 stand at 324 in Manitoba, with 73 of those in the ICU.
Members of the Canadian Armed Forces will be arriving in the province starting Friday for a minimum four-week deployment to help ease pressure on the health-care system. Pallister called for federal aid last week, including asking for nurses, respiratory therapists and contact tracers.
Manitoba also reported eight more COVID-related deaths on Thursday, the highest single-day death toll in months.
B.C., Alberta look toward reopening
While the situation remains dire in Manitoba, other provinces have been offering reopening plans as their new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations decline, including a recent four-step plan from B.C. and a three-stage plan from Alberta.
British Columbia announced Thursday most people in the province should now be able to receive a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine within eight weeks of their first.
At a new conference, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said there is now sufficient Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to move up the interval for the booster shot to about eight weeks.
Henry said the second dose is important for the individual and is added protection for the community.
B.C. was the first province to extend the length of time between doses to a maximum of 16 weeks in order to spread the protection throughout the population while there was a shortage of the vaccines.
The province reported 378 new cases and seven new deaths on Thursday.
Meanwhile, officials in Alberta followed up on their announcement Wednesday of a three-step plan that could see almost all public health restrictions lifted by July. The plan is tied directly to vaccination and hospitalization numbers.
WATCH | Alberta lays out 3-stage reopening plan:
“This is Alberta’s response to the science of vaccines, of population protection,” Premier Jason Kenney said Thursday about the plan.
“Because, at the end of the day, we cannot permanently rely on damaging public-health restrictions to protect our public health from this pandemic, especially since we now have the incredibly powerful and effective tools of vaccines.”
Alberta on Thursday reported 513 new cases of COVID-19 and one more death.
– From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 6:15 p.m. ET
What’s happening across Canada
As of 6:15 p.m. ET on Thursday, Canada had reported 1,371,073 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 42,104 considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 25,411. More than 22.3 million COVID-19 vaccine doses had been administered so far across the country, according to CBC’s vaccine tracker.
In Quebec on Thursday, health officials reported 436 new cases of COVID-19 and 10 additional deaths.
In Ontario, health officials on Thursday reported 1,135 new cases of COVID-19 and 19 deaths. Hospitalizations stood at 1,072, with 650 people in ICU due to COVID-related illness. Students in Ontario are still learning remotely, with no clear indication of if and when they will return to classrooms.
In the North, Nunavut reported no new cases on Thursday. With one new recovery reported, the territory was down to 21 active cases, according to Premier Joe Savikataaq. The Northwest Territories and Yukon also reported no new cases.
WATCH | Vaccine supply could shorten time between doses:
In Atlantic Canada on Thursday, Prince Edward Island Premier Dennis King and the province’s top doctor unveiled the province’s reopening plan.
“Transitions are challenging and the next few months will be no different,” Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison said at Thursday’s briefing. “How we treat each other and the kindness, patience and respect we show to others over weeks ahead will not go unnoticed.”
P.E.I, which reported no new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, plans to move through a five-step reopening plan, with an estimated start date of June 6.
New Brunswick has also unveiled its “road to green” reopening plan, which could see all restrictions lifted by Aug. 2 if 75 per cent of the eligible population aged 12 and over have been fully vaccinated by then and COVID-related hospitalizations remain low. The province reported nine new cases on Thursday.
WATCH | New Brunswick announces gradual reopening:
Meanwhile, Newfoundland and Labrador on Thursday reported six new cases of COVID-19, and Nova Scotia reported 33 new cases.
Saskatchewan reported 162 new cases and six new deaths on Thursday. While active COVID-19 case numbers have been falling, the Saskatchewan Health Authority’s chief medical officer cautions the province isn’t out of the woods yet.
– From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 6:15 p.m. ET
What’s happening around the world
As of Thursday afternoon, more than 168.5 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, Johns Hopkins University reported in a coronavirus tracking tool. The reported global death toll stood at more than 3.5 million.
In a briefing on Thursday, the director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that more than 60 per cent of the roughly 4.7 million cases reported in Africa were in five countries: South Africa, with roughly 34 per cent of total cases, followed by Morocco, Tunisia, Ethiopia and Egypt.
In Europe, Germany plans to allow children age 12 to 15 to get vaccinated against COVID-19 starting June 7, after having already decided to open vaccinations to all adults by that date.
France declared a mandatory quarantine period for people coming from Britain, due to the increasing prevalence there of a highly contagious coronavirus variant first detected in India.
An eight-week decline in Spain’s coronavirus infection rate has begun to tail off.
The British government said a fast-spreading new coronavirus variant could delay its plans to lift remaining social restrictions next month. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Thursday that “we may need to wait” beyond the planned date of June 21.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said it was “too early now to say” whether the step could take place.
In the Americas, U.S. President Joe Biden is asking U.S. intelligence agencies to “redouble” their efforts to investigate the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Meanwhile, vaccinated Californians will be eligible for $116.5 million US in prize money, with Gov. Gavin Newsom announcing the massive pot of money on Thursday as part of an effort to encourage more people to get their shots. The state estimates 12 million eligible Californians have not yet been vaccinated.
In the Asia-Pacific region, the city that was once Australia’s worst COVID-19 hot spot on Thursday announced a seven-day lockdown, its fourth since the pandemic began. The lockdown for Melbourne and the rest of Victoria state comes after a new cluster in the city rose to 26 infections, including a person who was in intensive care.
The health ministry in Malaysia on Thursday reported 7,857 new infections, a new high that pushed the country’s total confirmed cases to 541,224. It was the third straight day in which new cases soared above 7,000. Total deaths have spiked to 2,491.
The Philippines will allow the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for emergency use in children aged 12-15.
In the Middle East, Israel welcomed its first group of foreign tourists — a group of Christian theology students from Missouri — since largely shutting down air travel because of the pandemic more than a year ago.
Qatar said leisure and education centres and restaurants can reopen at limited capacity as of Friday.
– From The Associated Press, CBC News and Reuters, last updated at 5:15 p.m. ET
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