Sask. reports 4 variant of concern cases, after premier confirms omicron cases on radio show
154 Sask. residents recently returned from African countries subject to travel restrictions
Saskatchewan has confirmed that there are four persons with a variant of concern after Premier Scott Moe announced on a radio station that the provincial government would likely report cases of the COVID-19 omicron variant on Wednesday.
"For information purposes [the omicron variant] showed up in various provinces and Saskatchewan, we'll probably be reporting out some omicron cases here today in Saskatchewan, which I don't think would surprise anyone," Premier Scott Moe said during an interview on CJME.
The news was not accompanied by a news release on any government channels until nearly an hour later.
Four people from a single household have screened positive for a variant of concern, the release confirms.
That household has a travel history to one of the 10 countries on Canada's COVID-19 travel restriction list.
The people's tests will now undergo genome sequencing to confirm if they have an omicron variant, the province said.
All four individuals and all of their close contacts have been identified and are currently isolating.
The province said their investigation has confirmed that the risk of community transmission is low.
"It is expected that additional omicron cases will be detected in Saskatchewan and all residents should continue to follow best public health practices to prevent all COVID-19 transmission," the release stated.
This appears to have been a recent development as on Tuesday, Dr Saqib Shahab, the province's chief medical health officer, said Saskatchewan had not yet detected a case of the omicron variant.
WATCH | Understanding the Omicron variant
Shahab said the process of testing recent travellers is ongoing and that he's confident testing will be able to identify a positive case.
On Tuesday, Manitoba reported its first case of the omicron variant. It had previously been detected in Alberta, British Columbia, and Ontario.
The World Health Organization labelled omicron a variant of concern after it was first discovered in South Africa.
It has since been reported across the world in Asia, Europe, Australia, and the United States.
The Canadian government has placed restrictions on 10 African countries due to the presence of omicron.
Canadian citizens and permanent residents can return home but must quarantine and be tested for COVID-19, according to the PHAC website.
Initially, 42 Saskatchewan residents were identified as recent travellers to countries in southern Africa that have been part of a travel ban policy implemented by the Canadian government last week.
Shahab said 112 people have since been added to the list. He said all have been contacted by public health and are quarantining for two weeks. He said they have been directed to get tested, and so far "one-third" have been tested.
He said none of those who have been tested to this point have been positive.
"All travellers, if they test positive, go for whole-genome sequencing," Shahab said.
He said because cases in Saskatchewan are low, all positive cases will get an initial screening with anything other than the delta variant being flagged and subject to the full genome sequencing process.
Saskatchewan reported 47 new cases on Tuesday on 1,351 tests. There are 613 active cases, 131 people are in hospital, 31 are in ICU.
"We are confident that we will be able to detect omicron either due to travel or due to community transmission,"' Shahab said.
with files from Theresa Kliem, Adam Hunter