Diligence needed while Saskatchewan’s COVID-19 vaccination program ramps up

Premier Scott Moe is calling on Saskatchewan residents to remain diligent in following public health orders in light of growing COVID-19 variants of concern across southern Saskatchewan.

During a COVID-19 update on Tuesday afternoon, Premier Moe stressed that with vaccination clinics preparing to deliver and anticipated 180,000 vaccines to Saskatchewan residents in the next 15 to 20 days, the public needs to step up their compliance with existing COVID-19 preventive measures.

“The way through this is vaccines. The way through this is not to increase public health measures. We have significant public health measures in place. We’re asking people to be extra diligent and over the course of the next number of weeks, as we find our way through what we hope are the dying weeks of this pandemic, until we can provide them with access to a vaccine,” Premier Moe said during the March 30 update.

Despite rising variants of concern across Southern Saskatchewan, the provincial government ensures the public that outside of Regina that the additional cases do not reach the threshold of enacting more stringent Public Health measures.

“We all need to be very diligent in following these Public Health orders as they are put forward so we can continue to drive our case numbers down without increasing our restrictions further in our community. Or extending the already increased restrictions that we have in the community of Regina. This is very important for all of us to be very diligent. I believe that we will be able to get our case numbers under control where they are increasing without further restrictions. But we all need to do our part.”

“We need to be very diligent at this point in time and following them to a T each and every day so that we can hinder the spread of COVID-19.”

As of Monday, 1,575 variants of concern had been identified across Saskatchewan, with Regina accounting for 1,298 of these variants, followed by South Central (118), South East (107), Central East (25), Saskatoon (18), North Central (4), Central West (3), South West (1) and Far North East (1).

Additionally, as of Monday, Moose Jaw recorded 95 active cases after adding an additional 10 new cases on Monday’s report, a concerning total for a community with a population one quarter the size of Regina.

Despite the rising case numbers and variants of concern growing in the South East, these totals have not reached the threshold to add additional COVID precautions.

“If required, even more stringent measures could come into play, but we hope that with the current measures that are very stringent – the most stringent we’ve seen in Regina since anywhere in Saskatchewan since March 2020 – we hope things will turn around,” Saskatchewan’s Chief Medical Health Officer, Dr. Saqib Shahab explained on Tuesday.

“We are obviously very concerned with the case numbers in Regina and increasingly in other jurisdictions in Saskatchewan, for example in Moose Jaw and in Weyburn, Estevan,” Dr. Shahab said. “So for all of us anywhere in Saskatchewan, all the general precautions remain.”

“There are many places in the South that are quite concerning. Of course some parts of the province are not so much so. But still we need to maintain our cautions to allow the very strong, very rapidly accelerating vaccine program to be successful over the next six to eight weeks,” Dr. Shahab added. “The province will be in a very different place in six to eight weeks in the future after more of the age-priority group is vaccinated along with people who have underlying risk factors.”

Premier Moe reiterated that the province is asking people to strongly focus on the public health measures as opposed to looking to the province to initiate a lockdown to slow the spread of COVID.

“Restrictions are not the first tool, and most certainly and I don’t believe they are the first tool for any government across this nation, nor should they be. People do have a personal responsibility to look at their own personal situation and to make their decision accordingly. We’re asking them to do that across the province in these final weeks of this pandemic.”

“I hope that there’s no government in this nation or around the world that wants to close businesses, or to limit the opportunity for people to go to work, people to go to recreational opportunities, or limit kids going to school. That’s never the goal. It’s never been this government’s goal. We’ve never shied away from saying so.”

“What we want to do is manage the infection rate of COVID. We have taken every step that has been necessary over the course of what is approaching 13 months now, to ensure that we’re preserving our healthcare capacity, and balancing that with the opportunity for folks to carry on as normal of a life as ultimately is possible.”