Travel restrictions lifted in northeast portion of province

Saskatchewan's Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab. (Screenshot)

The Government of Saskatchewan amended the public health order and the travel restrictions in the Northern Saskatchewan Administration Districtas the risk of transmission of COVID-19 has decreased. Travel restrictions will remain applied to the northwest region.

Travel to and from all other areas of the north – commercial, domestic and recreational as outlined in the Re-Open Saskatchewan Plan is now permitted. At Tuesday’s news conference, Premier Scott Moe explained that the situation around La Loche continues to improve.

“There are still 107 active cases in the far north and virtually all of those cases are in the northwestern portion of our province,” Moe said.

Following consultation with leaders in the area, the restrictions will be lifted in areas including La Ronge and Air Ronge. He explained that it will remain in place in the northwest including La Loche.

“Volunteers, healthcare workers, public safety officers and many others continue to do a great job in La Loche and in many other northern communities as they work together to stop the spread of COVID-19. We hope to be able to safely lift the travel restrictions in those communities as well in the not too distant future,” Moe said.

The public health order will include clarity for northwestern community leaders, residents and checkpoint staff to ensure that people can obtain essential goods and services when travelling for medical purposes.

Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab explained that this shows how quick moving changes can be based around information around outbreaks and that they hope the northwest restrictions can soon be resided.

“We have to recognize that these kinds of steps may be required anywhere in the province if we see a cluster an outbreak and it is hard for communities when something like this happens. But again, we can see that once it is applied you can get ahead of the outbreak as long as all of the other inputs that are required which include staying in your home if there is an outbreak,” Shahab said.

Shahab explained that as testing continues to ramp up this will improve the situation.

“In terms of testing again we are seeing a bit of an increase in testing we really hope that people continue to seek testing for any symptoms over the next few months and if people have concerns as they are out and about and we are reopening businesses in terms of testing capacity that is available in Saskatchewan any mild symptoms you can seek testing and if you have concerns you can seek advice in terms of concerns you may have or your employees may have,” Shahab said.

Municipalities, First Nations and recreational subdivisions that will remain under the current public health order restricting non-essential travel are: Bear Creek, Beauval, Birch Narrows, Dene Nation, Black Point, Buffalo Narrows, Buffalo River, Dene Nation, Canoe Lake First Nation, Clearwater River Dene Nation, Cole Bay, Descharme Lake, Dillon, Dore Lake, English River First Nation, Garson Lake, Green Lake, Ile a la Crosse, Jan’s Bay, Lac La Ronge, La Loche, Little Amyot Lake, Michel Village, Patuanak, St. George’s Hill, Sled Lake, and Turnor Lake.

This list will be updated as the risk of COVID-19 transmission changes.

Province lifts supply limit on prescription drugs

Effective Wednesday, the Saskatchewan government is lifting the supply limits on prescription drugs that were introduced to guard against drug shortages the province announced in a release on Monday.

Saskatchewan residents who have prescriptions for long-term medications will be able to fill prescriptions as they did prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, except in limited situations where a specific drug remains in short supply.

The COVID-19 pandemic outbreak resulted in significant shortages for certain drugs and uncertainty regarding the overall Canadian drug supply. To manage drugs in short supply and prevent further shortages, Saskatchewan took decisive action to manage the drug supply to ensure that all patients, especially those most vulnerable, would have continued access to necessary medications.

On March 18, Saskatchewan, along with many other provinces and territories, limited prescription fills to one month to ensure the continued supply and to prevent the stockpiling of prescription medications with some exceptions for drugs on a specified maintenance list.

“As we navigate the unknowns presented by COVID-19, ensuring the availability of medications for all Saskatchewan residents is a priority,” Health Minister Jim Reiter said.

“Today, the drug supply is in a more stable position due to the actions of pharmacists, patients and other stakeholders in response to the prescription limits.

“We sincerely thank them for their support and understanding.”

“We continue to support the Ministry of Health’s careful management through this challenge to ensure Saskatchewan residents get the medications they need,” Pharmacy Association of Saskatchewan CEO Dawn Martin said.

“Front-line pharmacists work hard every day for their patients, and will continue to do so through this difficult and unpredictable time.”

The supply limits did not affect most Saskatchewan residents, as 87 per cent of Saskatchewan prescriptions are filled for a 34-day supply of medication.

“As the pharmacy regulatory body, we are supportive of the decision to remove the restrictions that were put in place to support the drug supply chain during the early days of COVID-19,” Saskatchewan College of Pharmacy Professionals Registrar Jeana Wendel said. “As a result of these measures, the drug supply chain has stabilized; however, it remains critical for pharmacists to ensure they are being stewards of the drug supply to ensure all Saskatchewan residents can continue to receive the medications they need.”

Though the majority of the Canadian drug supply is more stable, some drugs (e.g. salbutamol inhalers) and drug classes (e.g. sedatives and antibiotics) are in short supply. For these medications, pharmacists will use their judgement and dispense appropriate quantities.The drug supply is being actively monitored, at federal and provincial levels, as the pandemic evolves.

Province announces seven new active cases in the far north Monday

After recording no new cases yesterday for the first time since March 15 the province of Saskatchewan is reporting seven new active cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday which leaves the provincial total at 599.

All of the new cases are in the far north region with four cases in Beauval and three in La Loche.

There are currently 470 recoveries and six cases resulting in deaths, 123 cases are considered active, which is a drop of eight cases from the Monday update.

Fifteen more recoveries have been reported for the second consecutive day.

There are still five people in hospital with illnesses related to COVID-19. Two are receiving inpatient care, with one each in the Saskatoon and Regina, there are also three people in Saskatoon in intensive care. The province is emphasizing that these areas are where the patient is hospitalized, not the regions where they live. Active cases are included in the number for their region of residence.

There are currently 48 cases who are health care workers; however, the source of the infections is not related to their work environments in all instances, 226 of the cases are from the far north, 164 are from the Saskatoon area, 106 are from the north, 76 are from the Regina area, 15 are from the south and 12 are from the central region.

Of the 590 cases in the province: 139 cases are related to travel, 323 are community contacts, which includes mass gatherings, 69 have no known exposures and 68 are under investigation by local public health.

The age breakdown shows 84 cases involve people 19 years of age and under, 216 cases are in the 20-39 age range, 182 are in the 40-59 age range, 99 are in the 60-79 age range and 18 are in the 80-plus range.

Fifty-one per cent of the cases are females and 49 per cent are males.

As of May 19, 41,606 COVID-19 tests have been performed in the province.