Moe says returning travellers should get tested twice to avoid variant spread

Travellers being asked to take second test 7 days after first

Premier Scott Moe and Dr. Saqib Shahab at a February 2021 press conference (Screen Capture/Government of Saskatchewan Facebook page)

Speaking to reporters Thursday, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe  issued advice to any travellers who may be returning home from a vacation out-of-province.

“We won’t force anyone to be tested,” he said, “but if you have travelled anywhere, we would ask you to get tested.”

He said residents should get tested immediately, and then again after seven days to ensure they haven’t developed an infection of the virus causing COVID-19 or any of its variants. He urged travellers to self-monitor, and to stay home if they have any symptoms at all.

He reiterated his governments’ strong recommendation against out-of-province travel.

That recommendation, he said, is due to “the unnecessary risk … to COVID-19 variants across Canada. Upon returning home you will place … people at the very same risk of potential exposure to these COVID-19 variants.”

COVID-19 variants of concern have been identified across Canada, with a pair of cases tied to Saskatchewan. The variants of concern are more transmissible than the dominant variant, which is the one Canada has been battling since last March.

Moe also said the province has more testing capacity than it’s currently using and testing inbound travellers to ensure they’re not carrying any of the variants of concern “is a good way to utilize this testing.

“We have variants that are more common today than they were a few weeks ago,” he said, “we want to use the testing capacity.”

He added that the testing recommendation came from Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab who thought it was “prudent.”

Saskatchewan reported 2,206 COVID-19 tests Wednesday.

Moe says death of health care worker reminder that nobody’s immune

Tom Thomas, a health-care worker in a long-term care facility, died Monday after a positive COVID-19 diagnosis. He was 34. He is the first health care worker in the province to die after testing positive for COVID-19.

Speaking to the media Thursday, Health Minister Paul Merriman called Thomas a “hero.”

Moe said that Thomas’ death should serve as a reminder that while the elderly and immunocompromised are more likely to suffer the adverse effects of the virus, “COVID can affect people in a very serious way … regardless of how old you are.”

“The virus can impact anyone in the most negative way you can think imaginable. This is a reminder for all of us that until a time we have the mass majority of Saskatchewan people visiting a site like this … we need to keep our guard up. We have to follow the protocols, the guidance and the recommendation dr. Shahab and his team have provided us.

We have totally changed how we live from day to day to day and that is to protect as many people as possible in this province.”

146 new cases Thursday

Saskatchewan reported 146 new cases of COVID-19 Thursday along with 171 recoveries, bringing the active case count to 1,516.

Of the new cases, seven were in the north central. Five of those were in Prince Albert, which currently has 37 active cases.

Saskatchewan is reporting 174 people in the hospital with COVID-17, including 23 in intensive care. The north central has 14 COVID-19 patients receiving inpatient care and two in the ICU.

In total, 109 new doses of the COVID-19 vaccine were delivered Wednesday, including 68 in the north central.

The province said Thursday that with the reduction in Moderna vaccines originally scheduled for next week, about 900 people will receive a second dose after the recommended 42 day period. Senior living in congregate living setting s and residents over the age of 70 will receive their second dose within the timeframe. Remaining long-term, personal care and health care staff will receive their second dose on the basis of age as close to that 42-day window as possible.

Saskatchewan remains in its phase 1 or priority vaccine delivery, targeting residents and staff of long-term care and personal care homes, some health care providers, residents aged 70 plus and residents over the age of 50 in remote/northern Saskatchewan. Eligible residents will be contacted directly. Registration for phase two will be available when phase two begins. Residents are asked not to contact HealthLine 811 to register for vaccines at this time.