HALIFAX -- Manitoba is currently reporting the third highest number of COVID-19 cases per capita in all of Canada and the United States.

According to data tracked by CTVNews.ca Manitoba has had 252 average daily cases per million people in the past seven days, trailing behind Michigan and Alberta.

COVID-19 cases had been trending upwards in the province since March, but have only recently began to spike.

On Friday, Manitoba’s daily case count of 502 was the highest number of infections the province had seen since November, while intensive care beds remain in high demand.

In response to the latest surge in numbers, provincial health officials have again lowered the age of eligibility for COVID-19 vaccines, after dropping the age to 40 on Friday.

All Manitobans aged 35 and older can now receive a COVID-19 vaccination. For First Nations, the age eligibility remains at 18 and older.

The province also announced “significant restrictions” coming on Sunday, which will include the widespread closures of businesses, and prohibit community, cultural and religious gatherings.

Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief provincial public health officer, announced the changes to the public health measures Friday evening and say they will remain in effect until May 30.

"We need to act now," Roussin said. "I know Manitobans have done this before, and I know we have been doing it now for 14 months, but we need to continue our efforts to keep our numbers down."

Dr. Anand Kumar, an associate professor of medicine and microbiology at the University of Manitoba, says the situation in the province’s ICUs is reaching a breaking point.

“For the last week, I don’t think we’ve had any less than seven ICU admission of across the province of COVID-19 in any day. We’ve ranged between 7-14 admissions every day,” Kumar told CTV News Channel on Saturday.

Kumar said that prior to the third wave, he was seeing daily ICU admissions of one to two people. Now, he says case loads are testing hospital capacity.

However, he noted that the current crisis in Manitoba could have been prevented.

“The fact of the matter is that at every stage we’ve been behind in terms of the kind of response that was required at that point. Had we implemented the kind of restrictions we have now a month ago, we wouldn’t be here today,” Kumar said.

Under the new restrictions gyms, fitness centres, museums, galleries, libraries and casinos must close. Restaurants, bars, patios, and seating areas in food courts will be closed for in-person dining, but can still provide take-out.

Outdoor gatherings from different households are limited to five people. Indoor and outdoor private gatherings are still limited to household contacts only, except for people living alone who are allowed to bubble with another person.

“We’re in a very difficult position now. My feeling and the feeling of a lot of my colleagues is that we should pull out all stops at this point because we have no room for error,” said Kumar.

“If the extent that we can intensify what we’re doing already, that would be my recommendation,” he added.

Kumar said Manitoba should follow other provinces, including Ontario and Alberta, and consider transitioning all schools to online learning. He also recommends the government close more businesses, including large factories.

“There are several areas where we could increase, but for the moment it appears we’re going to see what happens,” Kumar said.