There is an elevated risk of COVID-19 in Regina due to community transmission of variants of concern, the province said Tuesday.
During a press conference on Tuesday Premier Scott Moe and Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab explained that public health measures expected to end on March 19 are continuing until at least April 5.
“We are working on a week by week basis … and in Regina’s case a community by community basis,” Moe said.
The extension on the original measures was approved by Shahab. On Tuesday there were 101 cases of COVID-19 reported in Regina on Tuesday of the total of 186 cases in the province.
As of today, there are 66 new confirmed variants of concern (VOC) cases being reported in the Saskatoon, Central East, Regina , South Central and South East zones.
Regina leads the way with 61 cases confirmed.
The provincial total is now 136 confirmed variant cases, including 130 of the UK variant and six of the South African variant.
The Regina zone accounts for 122, or 90 per cent, of the confirmed VOC cases reported in Saskatchewan.
In addition to the confirmed cases, there are currently 210 presumptive VOC cases reported in the Far North East , Saskatoon , Central East , Regina , South Central and South East zones. Regina leads the way again with 186 presumptive.
According to Shahab, the overall transmission numbers in the province are improving with an 11.3 per 100,000 case average, an active case rate of 122 and a test positivity of 5.6. Shahab explained that the reaction of the variants of concern in the province is similar to what has happened in other countries and provinces.
“Now in Regina we are seeing what we expected to see. But obviously when it comes it is always concerning and when you actually see it, it is also surprising. What we are seeing in Regina is the opposite of the rest of the province,”
The spike in Regina has the average of new cases per 100,000 up to 21 from the low teens and a test positivity of 9.1.
The variants of concern spread at an alarming rate compared to the typical COVID-19 virus.
“What we already know about variants of concern is that (they are) 70 per cent more transmissible, everything that we were doing to keep things under control and everything that’s allowing cases to continue trending downward in the rest of the province. Even allowing some relaxation in the rest of the province you know to three houses can form a bubble with great caution, worship services increase to 150 unfortunately can’t happen anymore in Regina,” Shahab said.
Meanwhile it is recommended by the province that Regina and area residents – particularly those over age 50 – should not consider increasing their household bubbles to include two to three households up to 10 people, unlike the rest of the province and should consider remaining with their current household only.
Moe focused on vaccines as the way to get out of the pandemic but also emphasized adhering to public health orders in Regina and the rest of the province. Moe considers the current measures significant enough to prevent the spread of COVID-19 including the variants.
“As we continue in this province to receive larger numbers of vaccines this does provide us more flexibility to focus our vaccination efforts on what would be hot spots in the province. So right now … one of those hot spots is Regina. So while we are continuing to vaccinate people in every part of this province and we are doing so as we speak, we will be directing additional doses to Regina in the days ahead,” Moe said.
Extra AstraZeneca doses are coming to Regina, the province said.
While worship services throughout the province will be able to expand to 30 per cent of capacity or 150 people, whichever is the lesser number starting March 19, places of worship in Regina and adjacent communities will remain at the current capacity level which is a maximum of 30 individuals, with required physical distancing and masking guidelines. This will remain in effect until April 5 and will be evaluated at that time.
The adjacent communities include Belle Plaine, Pense, Grand Coulee, Lumsden Beach, Regina Beach, Craven, Lumsden, Edenwold, Pilot Butte, White City, Balgonie, Kronau, Davin, Gray and Riceton.
All residents of Regina, those who work in Regina and area and those who are planning travel to the region, are asked to abide by all best personal protective measures at this time to avoid further restrictions. Moe was asked if they considered any extra measures to control the spread of the variants but trusts the judgement of the people.
“This is due to the fact that we have faith in the people of the province that they are going to make the decision that is best suited to their individual and unique circumstances. And also understanding that what we are seeing across Saskatchewan in the decreases that we are seeing across Saskatchewan with the public health measure that are in place,” Moe said.