WINNIPEG — The Manitoba government bolstered public health orders Friday in an attempt to stop a surge of COVID-19 cases and prevent more patients from being flown to other provinces.
"The projections are concerning and so we know if we don't take further steps, we certainly are at risk of overwhelming the health-care system again," said Dr. Brent Roussin, chief public health officer.
Health officials reported 193 new cases. Almost half of them were in the southern health region, an area of low vaccination rates that makes up 15 per cent of Manitoba's population.
Roussin released projections that showed the demand for intensive care beds could soon approach the pandemic's peak last spring, when dozens of patients had to be flown to other provinces to free up beds.
"We are doing everything we can to create capacity within Manitoba," said COVID-19 operations chief Monika Warren.
The number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care has risen 25 per cent in the last week, she added. Some upcoming surgeries will be postponed to free up staff and beds.
The new public health orders include a requirement for youth between 12 and 17 who want to attend indoor sports programs or overnight camps to have at least one dose of a vaccine or to undergo regular rapid testing. The measure is to take effect Dec. 5.
The other new restriction affects only the southern health region.
Starting Saturday, religious gatherings in most of the region will be capped at 25 people, or separate cohorts of 25 up to one-quarter of normal capacity, unless all attendees are fully vaccinated. A few bedroom communities near Winnipeg with high vaccination rates are exempt.
The Progressive Conservative government already has public health orders in place aimed primarily at the unvaccinated. Proof of immunization is required at restaurants, museums, sports stadiums and cinemas. In private homes, people are only allowed to host members of one other household if anyone in attendance is unvaccinated.
Roussin hinted the province may soon do more to restrict transmission in people's homes.
"Certainly, we're giving thought to that. We know that transmission occurs within homes," Roussin said.
"That mostly represents people who actually live together in the home ... but we know transmission occurs in prolonged contact in indoor public places."
The Opposition New Democrats said the government has not learned lessons from earlier pandemic waves.
"Here we are some 20 months into the pandemic and the government hasn't taken enough action ... to scale up (intensive care unit) capacity," NDP Leader Wab Kinew said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 12, 2021.
Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press