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What are the new COVID-19 variants and can Manitoba keep them away?

While Manitoba has yet to find a new COVID-19 variant in the province, a Winnipeg epidemiologist says people should be on high alert. Continue reading →

While Manitoba has yet to find a new COVID-19 variant in the province, a Winnipeg epidemiologist says people should be on high alert.

Cynthia Carr, founder of EPI Research, said while it’s not helpful to scare anyone, she is encouraging Manitobans to stay vigilant, even if they’re feeling fatigued.

“The challenge is that the variant didn’t change to be more noticeable,” Carr said.

The new COVID-19 variants, first discovered in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil, appear to be up to 70 per cent more transmissible.

Read more: What the COVID-19 variants could mean for masks, lockdowns and vaccines

Even though it is common for viruses to change, and research into the new variants is still ongoing, Carr said knowing they could be more contagious is enough to worry her.

“With being more contagious and infecting more people, it will ultimately become more dangerous,” she said. “Just statistically, the more people you infect, the more likely you’ll find somebody vulnerable.”

Click to play video: Coronavirus: New evidence shows UK variant may be more deadly, Boris Johnson says

Manitoba is currently testing for the new variants, and although it has yet to find any, the province announced new interprovincial travel restrictions on Tuesday.

Anyone entering the province will have to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning on Friday.

Read more: COVID-19 variant ‘mutants’ being examined for vaccine impacts: Fauci

Dr. Kelley Lee, Canada Research Chair professor in the Faculty of Health Sciences at Simon Fraser University, is leading a group of international researchers studying travel restrictions around the world.

She said travel restrictions do work, but only if they’re done right.

Read more: Manitoba premier enacts 2-week isolation order for travel in Canada, calls on feds to close borders

Lee believes the Manitoba government made the right call by cracking down on travel before a new variant is discovered in the province.

“There’s a lot to like about this policy,” Lee said.

The new policy includes exemptions for people who regularly travel to and from communities near the borders for essential purposes. Further details about exemptions for people who own property will be available later in the week when the formal orders are released, according to a government spokesperson.

However, Lee said too many exemptions could derail the whole plan.

Read more: Majority of Canadians call for inter-provincial travel ban: survey

“Every exemption that you create, it’s almost like holes through which the virus can enter your jurisdiction,” she said.

Lee also said Manitoba has to figure out how to encourage people to comply with the orders, such as checking in regularly.

“Most Canadians will comply as best they think they are, but sometimes people think because they’re asymptomatic, they can pop out to the shops or invite someone to come to their house,” Lee said.

“You want to enforce, maybe not so much that people are rebelling and feeling like they’re in a police state, but you do need to make sure people are following the rules in the way they are supposed to.”

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