Saskatchewan

Half of Saskatchewan's delta variant cases in Regina

Confirmed cases of the more contagious delta variant are increasing in Saskatchewan, with half of them being found in Regina.

34 of 68 confirmed delta cases in the city

People line up for their vaccine at a mobile clinic in Regina. Health officials are urging people to get both shots to guard against variants, including the more contagious delta variant. (Matt Howard/CBC)

Confirmed cases of the more contagious delta variant are increasing in Saskatchewan, with half of them being found in Regina.

Over the past week, cases of the B1.167.2, or delta, variant have risen from 45 to 68. Thirty-four of them have been found in Regina.

All positive cases in Saskatchewan are being tested for the variant.

The delta variant, first identified in India, is believed by experts to be more contagious than other variants.

As of Thursday, Saskatoon had 18 confirmed cases of the delta variant and the central west region had seven. The remaining nine are scattered across six other regions.

The importance of a second dose 

Studies out of the United Kingdom show that only about a third of people are protected against symptomatic cases of the variant after a single shot.

Both AstraZeneca and mRNA vaccines are estimated to be 92 to 96 per cent effective against hospitalization after two doses. 

The Saskatchewan government has included a note on the delta variant in its news releases about the importance of receiving two doses of vaccine.

"Remember that while one dose of COVID-19 vaccine provides good protection against transmission, two doses are required for optimal protection, particularly against the delta variant."

Premier Scott Moe highlighted the need for a full two doses.

"Your job is not finished at the first dose. Some of the emerging variants, particularly the delta variant, are still being contracted by many people that have only received their one dose. But the transmission is very low among people who are fully vaccinated," Moe said Tuesday.

Saskatchewan and Alberta lead the country in percentage of the population fully vaccinated at 20 per cent. The Canadian average is 15 per cent.

A spike in cases related to the delta variant caused U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson to delay the country's reopening by a month.

Both Canada and the U.K. used a similar vaccine strategy of giving as many people as possible one shot.

"It was always going to be an experiment in terms of delaying the second dose. Now, I think we should look at the data for what it is. As supplies increase we should really focus on getting people their second shots as soon as possible," said University of Saskatchewan virologist Angela Rasmussen.

Alpha most common variant in Sask.

The Alpha variant (B1.17) is the most common variant strain in Saskatchewan, with 6,134 cases identified. The gamma strain (P1) is second with 231.

Saskatchewan's chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab said delta arrived in Saskatchewan mainly through travel.

"Most of the initial cases were related to international, inter-provincial travel. It hasn't taken off quite like alpha did."

"If you're symptomatic, get tested, comply with public health measures, because all these variants and even the delta will respond well to two doses of vaccine."

Manitoba and Alberta link deaths to delta variant

Both Manitoba and Alberta have reported deaths linked to the delta variant in recent days.

On Tuesday, Manitoba officials said a man in his 50s from the Winnipeg Health Region died after contracting the delta variant. 

Two deaths in Calgary were linked to the delta variant on Wednesday.

Experts believe delta could be between 40 and 60 per cent more contagious than the alpha variant, said epidemiologist Jason Kindrachuk, a University of Manitoba professor and Canada Research Chair in emerging viruses.

The alpha variant is about 50 per cent more transmissible than the original COVID-19 strain, he said.

Dr. André Corriveau, Alberta's deputy chief medical officer of health, said Tuesday that as overall cases decrease, it's likely the more transmissible delta variant will become the predominant strain in the province.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Adam Hunter

Journalist

Adam Hunter is the provincial affairs reporter at CBC Saskatchewan, based in Regina. He has been with CBC for more than 14 years. Follow him on Twitter @AHiddyCBC. Contact him: adam.hunter@cbc.ca

with files from CBC's Sarah Rieger and Bryce Hoye

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