Manitoba unveiled a new colour-coded system Wednesday that will allow the government to roll out COVID-19 restrictions targeting specific regions, communities or industries in the province.
The new system has four risk levels, with each triggering possible measures that public health officials can take to limit spread of the virus.
With this new system, the province hopes to focus restrictions on areas or sectors rather than rolling them out across the province and impacting the economy.
“We need to find a way to live with this virus without requiring widespread shutdowns,” Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin said at a news conference, along with Premier Brian Pallister on Wednesday.
Using the colours green, yellow, orange and red, the system lays out a range of responses that’s broken down by sectors, such as schools, restaurants, child-care centres and community gatherings.
The four risk levels and their accompanying restrictions can be applied across the province, in a region or community, across a sector or even at a specific site. Regional restrictions can even may not correspond to the boundaries of existing health regions, and restrictions can be scaled up or down.
No one indicator will be used to determine whether restrictions should be increased or eased. There are multiple factors health officials must consider, they said.
For example, a test-positivity rate — a rolling five-day average of how many COVID-19 tests come back positive — of two or three per cent would be considered higher risk.
Other factors that could indicate higher or lower risk include rapidly increasing case numbers, and whether contact tracing links new cases to known clusters or community transmission.
Manitoba is currently under the yellow risk level, “caution,” which includes many restrictions Manitobans are already familiar with, such as limits on gathering sizes, restrictions on people returning from out of province, and directions to practice good hygiene and physical distancing.
In order to reach the lowest, green level, “limited risk,” spread of COVID-19 would have to be broadly contained and a vaccine or viable treatment for the disease would have to be available.
At the orange level, “restricted,” public health officials will be seeing evidence of community transmission, but new clusters can be contained with self-isolation, and the health-care system is able to handle the case loads.
The highest risk level, red or “critical,” means there is extensive community transmission and clusters of COVID-19 that are not contained, and the cases are putting strain on the health system.
Information about current risk levels and restrictions will be available on the province’s website.
Cases of the disease caused by the new coronavirus have increased sharply over the last month, with rising numbers of infections in multiple communities across the Manitoba, including a cluster of more than 60 cases in Brandon.
The new system builds on efforts by the provincial government to make their response to the pandemic more focused and tailored to local conditions.
Last week, the province updated their online dashboard to show more details on where cases have been identified, broken into 68 districts across Manitoba: 13 in the Prairie Mountain Health region, 24 in the Southern Health region, 14 in the Interlake-Eastern region and 15 in the Northern region, plus the Winnipeg district.
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