Opposition calls on Saskatchewan government to outline plan for COVID-19 variants

REGINA — The Opposition says Premier Scott Moe's government needs to outline how it plans to protect Saskatchewan from a possible spike in COVID-19 cases caused by variants.

NDP health critic Vicki Mowat says in a statement that more contagious strains have been found in every province, and residents ought to be told what measures are being taken to guard against future spread.

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She says Moe should spend the millions his Saskatchewan Party government has in a contingencyfundto ramp up laboratory services and testing, as well as to deploy more rapid tests into schools, long-term care and high-risk communities.

The Public Health Agency of Canada is projecting that variants could cause a surge to 20,000 new cases a day in the country by mid-March if public health restrictions are relaxed further.

Saskatchewan has already announced that people who travel interprovincially should get tested twice upon returning to the province to try to ensure the more contagious mutations don't get into the community.

The province has also extended a public health order banning team sports from playing and households from hosting social visits until at least March 19.

Saskatchewan has found three cases of the variant first identified in the United Kingdom, but health officials say the infections were travel-related and there is no evidence of community transmission.

The NDP says the government mishandled the pandemic's fall and winter surge that resulted in the novel coronavirus entering long-term care homes and led to more hospitalizations and deaths.

More recently, Saskatchewan's COVID-19 caseload has been decreasing, but at a rate health officials call slow.

"While other provinces saw steep reductions in case counts and death rates, Saskatchewan led the nation. That can’t happen again. The premier needs to lay out a clear plan that Saskatchewan families can count on," Mowat says Friday.

Health officials reported another 146 new infections Friday, and said three more residents over the age of 50 died from the virus.

There were 172 people in hospital, with 19 patients in intensive care.

The province's seven day average of new daily cases sits at 157 — a figure that Saskatchewan's chief medical health officer said earlier in the week had not consistently stayed below 200 in some time.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 19, 2021

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