Manitoba's top doctor announced Monday that the province will become more aggressive in contact tracing, with respect to COVID-19.
Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin says this needs to be done to protect against the loosening of restrictions but also to safeguard against community transmission of the variants of concern.
"We're decreasing public health measures on one side of things, then we need to increase our public health measures in other aspects," reports Dr. Roussin. "That's why aggressive case in contact management will become more and more important as we slowly reopen Manitoba."
One change is that the province is lowering the threshold of prolonged contact from 15 minutes to 10 minutes. However, Dr. Roussin says this is only a guide.
"If there is high-risk contacts where we feel somebody was absolutely exposed to droplets, then that could be as little as just a few seconds or minutes," suggests Dr. Roussin.
Either way, the end result is that more people will be identified as close contacts, meaning more people will ultimately be required to self-isolate.
Another change is that if someone in a household, tests positive for COVID-19, all household members will be considered close contacts. Dr. Roussin says this is different from the past where, in certain circumstances, positive cases were allowed to self-isolate within a section of their home if the right precautions were in place.
"So everyone within a household with a positive case is going to be deemed a close contact," stresses Dr. Roussin. "Public health will advise each of these contacts on how long they are required to self-isolate."
Also, if a close contact lives in a different household, all members of that close contact's household will be required to self-isolate until the close contact has received a negative test result.
Dr. Roussin says any close contact without symptoms will be advised to get a test 10 days after the last exposure, while close contacts with symptoms will be tested as symptoms develop. Close contacts will be required to self-isolate for a minimum of 14 days, regardless of test results.
According to Dr. Roussin, Manitoba easily has the capacity to be able to handle this anticipated increased workload.
"(We've) increased our capacity for contact tracing to be able to do the contact tracing and contact management and follow-up for many, many times the cases that we're seeing right now, so we've been preparing for that," says Dr. Roussin. "Right now we certainly are at a very good spot, but we've put things in place to be able to ramp up quite quickly if we see even multiple times the cases we're seeing right now."
Dr. Roussin says with respect to health care workers that are considered contacts there may be some exceptions, though it will be a case by case basis.