Manitoba health officials say three more confirmed cases of the B.1.1.7 COVID-19 variant that first originated in the United Kingdom have been identified in the province.
Dr. Jazz Atwal, Manitoba’s deputy public health officer, announced the cases — bringing the total number of cases of the more-contagious variant confirmed in Manitoba to four — along with 92 new infections and two additional deaths Friday.
The three confirmed cases of the U.K. variant are all connected to international travel, and all three have since recovered, Atwal said.
Atwal said the latest infections aren’t connected to First Nation communities where several cases of the variant had been suspected but further testing showed they were not in fact the B.1.1.7 variant.
While Atwal said the latest cases have contacts ranging from between four and 24 people, there is not evidence the variant is spreading.
“This is not an unexpected development,” he told reporters.
“We are anticipating variant of concern cases in Manitoba and we are prepared for this … there is no cause for immediate public concern.
“However that does not be we can become complacent with our actions, these cases serve as a reminder to continue to follow the public health orders, advice, and messaging.”
Based on the evidence so far, researchers believe the B.1.1.7 lineage that was first discovered in the United Kingdom is up to 70 per cent more contagious than other variants. It is not yet clear, however, if it causes more severe illness or is more lethal.
The virus’s latest victims in Manitoba, a man in his 80s from the Winnipeg Health region and a woman in her 90s connected to an outbreak at Golden Links Lodge in Winnipeg, bring the province’s COVID-19 death toll to 879 after a previously announced death from the virus was removed from the list.
Atwal said health officials have since determined the death, a man in 70s from the Interlake-Eastern Health region announced Dec. 11, was not related to COVID-19.
Since last March Manitoba has recorded 31,235 infections of COVID-19; Health officials said 1,169 of those cases remained active as of Friday morning.
On Thursday health officials announced 139 new COVID-19 infections, the highest new daily case count reported since late-January.
-More to come.
Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.
To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus. In some provinces and municipalities across the country, masks or face coverings are now mandatory in indoor public spaces.
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