South African variant of COVID-19 detected in North Central zone

(File photo/Jayda Taylor)

The province reported on Tuesday that a resident of the North Central zone, which includes Prince Albert, has had the B1.351 SA (South Africa) COVID-19 variant detected in their test, the individual was tested at the end of January and Public Health’s investigation is ongoing.

According to Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab in a press conference on Tuesday the experience with the variants is not different from what other provinces have seen.

“What it means for us is basically the variants of concern respond exactly the same as the previous COVID-19 strains,” Shahab said.

He reminded people to take all of the common steps such as social distancing and other steps to reduce transmission as well as minimizing interprovincial and international travel.

He explained that six per cent of all samples are screened for all variants by referring them to the National Microbiology Lab (NML) in Winnipeg including travel related cases, outbreaks, cases of people under 50-years-old in ICY and random samples.

 “That will also help us increase the portion that we can screen, it will also shorten the time it takes to get the results from one to two weeks to a few days,” Shahab said.

“All of that must start once the initial test comes back positive. We shouldn’t wait for it to be diagnosed for the variants of concern for us to take further action,” he added.

According to Premier Scott Moe work in under way to receive certification for the Roy Romanow Laboratory in Regina to expand to testing for variants of COVID-19.

 “That process does take a period of time, working with the lab in Winnipeg. That process is underway and I would expect that we would be able to identify the variants at the Roy Romanow Lab within the province of Saskatchewan sometime in early March,” Moe said.

Shahab and Moe both said that the province expected to see the variant in the province.

The B1.1.7 UK (United Kingdom) variant  has been detected in two residents in the Regina zone. These individuals were tested at the end of January.  Based on the contact investigation to date, there is no link to travel at this time but public health’s investigation is ongoing.  

There is also a presumptive case of B1.1.7 UK in one individual in the Saskatoon zone. The individual was transferred from out of province to Saskatoon for acute care. 

Whole genome sequencing will need to be completed to confirm the results and health’s contact investigation is ongoing. 

“All residents with a confirmed COVID-19 test are required to isolate to reduce the risk of transmission.  If required, public health will issue a public service announcement to alert the general public to any risk due to any confirmed case of a variant of concern.  The Government of Saskatchewan continues to plan for the impact of variants on COVID-19 including any required increase to public health measures and surge capacity planning,” the province’s release explained.

This brings the provincial total of confirmed variant of concern cases to seven.

Meanwhile, there were four deaths related to COVID-19 reported in the province on Tuesday.

There were three deaths reported in the Regina zone with two in the 80 plus age group and one in the 70 to 79 age group. There was also a death reported in the 80 plus age group in the Saskatoon zone.

The number of deaths in the province currently sits at 376.    

There were 122 new cases of COVID-19 reported in the province on Tuesday.

The North Central zone, which includes Prince Albert, reported four new cases. 

One additional case was added to North Central that had tested positive out of province. 

North Central 2, which is Prince Albert, has 36 active cases.      

According to Shahab the province is in the 12th consecutive week of a consistent slow decline in numbers with a slight uptick last weekend. The overall seven day average has dropped from 16.6 on Feb. 9 to 12.7 on Feb. 23.

 “And our test positivity is also gradually trending down to around seven per cent right now. Similar to many other provinces we are seeing a decline but some provinces are also seeing a bit of a plateauing,”  he said.

North Central 1, which includes communities such as Christopher Lake, Candle Lake and Meath Park, has 47 active cases and North Central 3 has 19 active cases.
There are currently 174 people in hospital overall in the province. Of the 158 reported as receiving in patient care there are 17 in North Central. Of the 16 people reported as being in intensive care there is one in North Central.

The current seven-day average 156, or 12.7 cases per 100,000 population.

Of the 27,923 reported COVID-19 cases in Saskatchewan, 1,530 are considered active.      

The recovered number now sits at 26,017 after 244 more recoveries were reported.    

The total numbers of cases since the beginning of the pandemic is 27,923 of those 77,238 cases are from the North area (2,917 North West, 3,192 North Central and1,129 North East).

There were 549 doses of COVID-19 vaccine administered yesterday in Saskatchewan bringing the total number of vaccines administered in the province to 62,342.   

There were no doses administered in the North Central yesterday. Doses were administered in the adjacent North East zone, North West, Far North Central, Central East, Regina and Saskatoon zones.

An additional 21 doses were administered in the Central East zone on Feb.17 and an additional 52 doses were administered in the South Central zone on Feb. 19.

There were 1,872 COVID-19 tests processed in Saskatchewan on Feb. 21.    

As of today there have been 563,055 COVID-19 tests performed in Saskatchewan.

-Updated with quotes on Feb. 23