Saskatchewan

Sask. epidemiologist concerned about potential easing of COVID-19 restrictions

Epidemiologist Nazeem Muhajarine is cautioning the Saskatchewan government against easing pandemic restrictions too quickly.

Premier Scott Moe has talked about easing restrictions in face of declining case numbers

An epidemiologist in Saskatoon is concerned about the province potentially easing COVID-19 restrictions. (Alberta Health Services)

Epidemiologist Nazeem Muhajarine is cautioning the Saskatchewan government against easing pandemic restrictions too quickly.

Premier Scott Moe spoke at a news conference last week about the possibility of expanding the number of people allowed for household visits and lifting other limitations if case numbers declined.

Muhajarine, a professor at the University of Saskatchewan, said he's encouraged by recent COVID-19 case numbers, but believes it's premature to talk about softening the rules.

"We still are the province that has the highest per capita seven-day average of daily new cases," he said.

"[That number] is almost double the rest of Canada."

Muhajarine said there are many factors that could potentially drive cases back up, including the recent discovery of community transmission of the B 117 variant first discovered in the United Kingdom.

"This is not the time to rush," he said. "I think things can change very quickly."

The epidemiologist's concerns have been echoed by the Saskatchewan Health Authority. Last week, senior medical health officer Dr. Julie Kryzanowski told a virtual town hall for doctors that the province's case rate and infections per positive case had not met the authority's goals.

Muhajarine noted that Regina's test positivity rate is almost double the provincial average right now and wondered whether regional restrictions might be the answer.

He said the best strategy is to have health policy follow the evidence.

"We have to watch the numbers," he said. 

"It is the numbers that will have to direct us to what to do and when, what restrictions to relax and lift, where they would occur."

On Monday, 97 new cases of COVID-19 were reported in Saskatchewan, including three cases of the B117 variant. The province has had 399 COVID-19-related deaths.

With files from The Canadian Press, Saskatoon Morning

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