Action is needed now to prevent the new variant forms of the COVID-19 virus (SARS-CoV2) from coming to Manitoba. Major new variants of the virus have been found in the United Kingdom, in South Africa and in Brazil. While these new variants may not cause more severe disease (this is good), the new variants spread faster and are more infectious than the strain of COVID-19 virus we have been dealing with so far (this is bad). The variants will be harder to contain than the original strain of COVID-19 and therefore it is imperative that Manitoba act now to limit the spread of these variants to Manitoba. We need, immediately, to review protocols for people coming from any jurisdiction where the virus has been found (including Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta). Individuals coming from these areas should all self-isolate for 14 days (currently this is not required for individuals from British Columbia and Alberta). Testing protocols for International travelers currently require all international travelers to be tested for COVID-19 on arrival in Manitoba. Similar testing requirements should be considered for travelers from jurisdictions in Canada where the COVID variants are present including Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta. The time to act is now. The new variants move so quickly and so much faster than the original COVID virus that we need to act now - or risk being too late to stop the variants from entering Manitoba. We also need up to date reporting on the new variants - the number of people in Manitoba being tested each day specifically to identify the new variants and their possible presence in our province. The press release our caucus sent out yesterday calling for much better attention to the new variants is below.
Province Should Ramp up Testing for Covid-19 Variants
Treaty One Territory, Winnipeg, Manitoba - Manitoba Liberals say the provincial government needs to ramp up testing, including for Covid-19 variants that are more infectious, especially with schools reopening next week.
There have been mutations to the Covid-19 virus in the UK, South Africa and Brazil, with some strains being more infectious. The new strains have been detected in British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario.
The symptoms of the virus appear to be the same - with the same symptoms and death rates as the original strain of Covid-19, but it is easier to catch and spread, creating surges in infections.
A recent media report suggested that only Saskatchewan is broadly testing for variants.
“We need more testing, more contact tracing and we need to be on the lookout for these new variants or we will see a third wave,” said Manitoba Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont. “The PCs promised 3,000 tests a day, and Manitoba has routinely been falling far short of that.”
Lamont, Manitoba Liberal Health Critic Jon Gerrard, and Manitoba Seniors Critic Cindy Lamoureux have written to Health Minister Heather Stefanson asking for the government to provide more information so Manitobans know what the current status of testing for variants.
Gerrard said since Manitoba has the Federal Virology Lab, local testing capacity exists.
“Where these variants have had outbreaks, the curve for new infections has been vertical, so we need to be very vigilant,” said Gerrard.
Cindy Lamoureux, Seniors’ Critic said the government still needs to increase testing, including asymptomatic testing.
“Ontario recommended asymptomatic testing for everyone in personal care homes months ago. Seniors are the most vulnerable to this virus, and we need to learn from past mistakes to keep our elders safe,” said Lamoureux.