WINNIPEG — Manitoba’s 13-day streak without new COVID-19 infections ended Tuesday as health officials reported five additional cases, including that of an airline passenger.
The individual was on a WestJet flight from Winnipeg to Calgary on June 27 and on a return flight on July 2. All passengers on those flights are being asked to monitor themselves for symptoms, the Health Department said.
Investigations into how the five contracted the novel coronavirus are continuing.
Even with the new cases, Manitoba remains among the provinces with the lowest infection rates, with 330 confirmed and probable cases. No one was in hospital with the virus as of Tuesday and five cases were active.
The Progressive Conservative government has relied on the low numbers to reopen most businesses and relax many restrictions on public gatherings in recent weeks.
More recently, the province began a new tourism push to attract visitors from northwestern Ontario and the other western provinces. Provincial and Winnipeg tourism and economic development agencies released a video this week asking residents to promote the city as a place open for business and visitors.
The announcement was criticized by some on social media who noted that COVID-19 numbers are much higher in Saskatchewan and Alberta.
“We appreciate these concerns. Our marketing continues to align with current government travel restrictions and safety protocols and takes into consideration the advice of the public health officer,” Travel Manitoba said in a social media post.
Manitoba initially required anyone entering from other provinces to self-isolate for 14 days, but lifted that requirement last month for people coming from northern Ontario, the northern territories and provinces to the west.
Premier Brian Pallister said it’s a matter of balance.
“None of us here in government or anywhere else, I don’t think, are advocating that we stop being conscious of the (rules), and following them is really critical,” Pallister said.
“We have to stick to the fundamentals here, but we can’t allow a continued shutdown of every aspect of our economy to threaten the very future of our quality of life.”
The Opposition New Democrats appeared to support the idea of boosting visitors.
“By using the balanced approach where we prioritize the health and safety of Manitobans, as well as opening up our economy to tourists, (it) will allow us to be successful in Manitoba,” New Democrat legislature member Jamie Moses said.
Pallister also said he is looking to the federal government to help the economy by changing its Canada Emergency Response Benefit.
The program offers $2,000 per month to people who have lost work because of the pandemic, but Pallister said it has become a disincentive for people to return to the job market because the benefit is cut off after people earn $1,000 a month.
Pallister said the federal government should instead reduce the benefit gradually as people’s incomes rise. He has written to other premiers in the hope of getting them to pressure Ottawa together.
He also wants the other premiers to join him in asking the federal government to allow more businesses to qualify for wage subsidies during the pandemic.
“As our recovery moves forward, our labour force must grow and we must help grow our labour force,” he said.