Manitoba’s chief provincial public health officer announced a new way to help people track COVID-19 within the province.
Dr. Brent Roussin said Manitoba will be releasing an online tool tracking the travel of people who have tested positive for the virus. Nearly all of Manitoba’s 19 positive COVID-19 cases have been directly linked to travel – 18 in total. Roussin said one probable case without a direct link is still under investigation.
“We strongly are advising Manitobans to cancel or postpone any trips, certainly outside of Canada, but this advice is strongly given to cancelling and postponing trips outside of Manitoba as well,” he said.
“Now is the time for social distancing. Now is not the time for non-essential travel.”
Officials have linked one case in Manitoba to inter-provincial travel to B.C.
Roussin added that the province will reach out with instructions to anyone who has have been in close contact with a person who tests positive for COVID-19.
Roussin said he expected to see community-based transmission in Manitoba eventually.
“We certainly have not given up our containment phase, but the more and more you see this virus introduced into your region, the more likely you're going to see community based transmission,” he said.
“We are definitely prepared to see that at all levels of the healthcare system. I think we need to anticipate that.”
Nearly 250 COVID-19 tests were conducted in Manitoba March 21. Officials said around 3,600 people have been tested in Manitoba for the virus so far.
“We're looking to increase our lab capacity, which we've been doing all throughout,” Roussin said.
“You have to focus on the most at-risk and we know that almost all our cases are from international travel and we know that almost all spread comes from symptomatic people.”
Officials continued to note that people need to be referred testing sites, encouraging anyone with questions to use the Health Links - Info Santé phone number or visit the online Shared Health questionnaire.
Increased staffing and new tools have dropped the average wait time for the Health Links hotline to under 50 minutes.
“This virus is spread by close, prolonged contact with a symptomatic person,” Roussin said.
Roussin also took the opportunity to ask Manitobans to continue social distancing efforts.
“Now is the time for Manitobans to work together and everyone has that role,” he said.
“It's only if everyone starts playing that role that we're going to limit the spread of this virus.