The province will be funnelling support and vaccines into Regina in a fight against the growth of COVID-19 cases in Saskatchewan’s capital.
On Tuesday the province announced a series of enhanced restrictive measures, including the immediate rollback of indoor gatherings to immediate household members only, the announcement of a travel advisory in or out of the Regina area unless absolutely necessary, and starting on Sunday all Regina restaurants and licensed establishments will be closed to in-person dining. There were also a series of closures announced for non-essential locations.
In order to support these closed locations, the Saskatchewan Small Business Emergency Payment will be extended to those businesses.
On March 23 Regina had over half of Saskatchewan’s 1,472 active COVID-19 cases, and so far 763 variants of concern have been detected in Regina.
“The case numbers in Saskatchewan continue to trend in two very different directions. In most of our province the number of COVID cases is stable or is actually declining. However here in Regina we are seeing case numbers continue to rise, and that is largely due to the high concentration of variant cases in Regina,” Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said on March 23.
Saskatchewan’s first two UK variant cases were announced at the start of February. The first case was detected in a Regina zone resident who traveled from the United Kingdom, while the second case was a close contact of the traveler. As of March 23 there were a total of 891 variants of concern across Saskatchewan (Regina – 763, South Central – 56, South East – 43, Saskatoon – 18, Central East – 10, and Far North East (1).
And despite Regina being ground zero for the spread of variants, Moe warned that the entire province should be on guard against the arrival of variants.
“I would say we need to be very diligent across the province as well. The variants aren’t only in Regina, they are in a number of communities across the province. The challenge we have is the concentration of variants in Regina is much much higher. It will be higher eventually in other areas of the province, and we want to delay as long as possible so that we can get the vaccines out that we want,” Moe said.
Moe confirmed Saskatchewan’s before month end delivery of 45,000 doses of the AstroZenica vaccine from the United States will be utilized for areas of concerns in the province. This will allow for the re-opening of a drive-thru clinic in Regina, plus there will be an opportunity to open additional clinics in Saskatoon, Moose Jaw and Yorkton. He added the next shipment of the Moderna vaccine will be sent to smaller locations across the province, and that shipment is expected to arrive later this week.
“We are in this race between access to the vaccines and the threat of the variants, and the variants are more contagious. They ultimately will continue to spread across Saskatchewan, so that’s why we are trying to limit our travel in and out of Regina is to delay that spread to whatever degree we can until we have access to those vaccines. In particular access to those vaccines for those that are at highest risk of severe outcomes when it comes to COVID-19.”
The province is utilizing the Regina restrictions and the arrival of vaccines as a line of defence against the virus over the course of the next number of weeks.
“It’s highly possible that when we look ahead to the first week, or maybe April 10, that here in the province we will be in a situation where in Regina and the Far North we have provided access to everyone over the age of 50 with the vaccine. In the communities of Saskatoon, Moose Jaw and Yorkton everyone over the age of 60. And in every other community, through our appointment system, will likely be down into that 65 range by that point in time. So we’ll be in a very very different position here even just in a number of weeks with the vaccines that we’re anticipating that we’ll have access to.”