Manitoba is loosening lockdown measures as its COVID-19 case counts continue to level off, but as other provinces see a similar decline federal officials warn that some of the worst impacts of the recent surge may be yet to come.
The Manitoba government announced Thursday that it's easing some of its restrictions in all areas except the northern health region.
Starting Saturday, non-essential retail stores will be allowed to open at 25 per cent capacity. Barber shops, hair salons, reflexologists and some other personal services will also be able to reopen their doors.
The province is also relaxing its ban on social visits, allowing each household to designate two guests to welcome into their home.
The northern region will remain under strict restrictions as COVID-19 case numbers there stay high, even as the province sees an overall decline in daily diagnoses.
The downward trend in infections seemed to also hold steady Thursday in two of Canada's hardest-hit provinces.
Ontario marked a fourth consecutive day of fewer than 3,000 daily cases, reporting 2,632 new infections, as well as 46 more deaths linked to the virus.
Quebec reported 1,624 new cases, a slight uptick from Wednesday, but maintained a five-day streak of fewer than 2,000 diagnoses.
But even as daily case counts level off from their post-holiday peaks, federal officials say Canadians are far from out of the woods.
Canada's chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam said Thursday infection rates remain high among the people most vulnerable to COVID-19 complications.
Tam said she expects that cases of severe illness will continue to rise, because it takes several days for symptoms to get bad enough to require hospitalization.
"Nationally, hospitalizations and deaths, which tend to lag behind increased disease activity by one to several weeks, remain high," said Tam.
"Strong and sustained efforts are needed to reduce heavy demands on the health-care system."
Tam said Canada has averaged 6,309 new diagnoses a day over the past week, and 148 deaths from the illness each day.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2021.
Adina Bresge, The Canadian Press