Saskatchewan

COVID-19 in Sask: Top doc says physical distancing must continue until there is vaccine or immunity

A plan to gradually lift restrictions put in place to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in Saskatchewan is expected this week but the Saskatchewan's chief medical health officer says physical distancing will continue indefinitely. 

1 new case reported Monday

Premier Scott Moe said last week he was discussing a reopening plan with Saskatchewan's chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab. He said that plan would likely be released this week. (Michael Bell/Canadian Press)

A plan to gradually lift restrictions put in place to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in Saskatchewan is expected this week, but the province's chief medical health officer says physical distancing will continue indefinitely. 

"We should understand that until such time that there is an effective vaccine, or treatment, or until such time that most of us have some level of immunity, we will have to maintain physical distancing," said Dr. Saqib Shahab at a news conference on Monday. 

One new case was reported in Saskatchewan on Monday. Shahab said the province has been successful at flattening the curve but cautioned against complacency. 

He said the province will look for opportunities to allow people to participate in more activities but the public will need to continue to practise "good habits" such as hand-washing and not touching their face. 

"That will be essential, and if you don't observe unfortunately we will start seeing transmission because we have kept the curve extremely low," said Dr. Shahab.

COVID-19 cases in Saskatchewan on April 20, 2020. (CBC News Graphics)

"It certainly has not gone away in Saskatchewan and will not for the next few weeks or months."

Shahab said the province has been looking to other parts of the world for insight into how to gradually lift restrictions in this province. 

"We've been looking very carefully at countries in Europe who are relaxing some measures, we've been looking very closely at countries in South East Asia that in fact tried to go back to normal and saw a … spike," said Shahab. 

"What we have to do is that as we move forward on this, maintaining physical distancing while relaxing some measures [in Saskatchewan], we need to continue to monitor very closely — where is transmission happening?"

He said the province would adjust as needed, depending on transmission and new cases.

Premier Scott Moe said on April 13 that a reopening plan would be released this week, "if our case numbers continue to hold steady where they are."

He stressed at the time that any reopening will be done "cautiously, methodically and gradually."

"Businesses will be expected to maintain good physical distancing and good cleaning practices," he said. 

1 new case Monday

One new case of COVID-19 was reported on Monday, bringing the provincial total to 316. The new case is located in the north region, which includes Prince Albert, Meadow Lake, North Battleford and Melfort. 

The number of people in the province who have recovered from the virus was 238 as of Monday — four more than the day before. Four people are currently hospitalized due to the virus. 

A large portion of the province's cases are located in Saskatoon (149), while 70 cases are located in Regina, 60 in the north, 15 in the south, and 11 cases each in the central region and the far north. 

Meanwhile, the province continues to monitor what it calls an "outbreak situation" in the northern community of La Loche.

COVID-19 cases linked to a long-term care home in that community have prompted a curfew that residents say has turned the community into a "ghost town."

A long-term care resident, a staff member at the same facility and two others in the community have tested positive. 

Shahab said last week it was an "outbreak situation." He did not provide an update on La Loche at the news conference on Monday, saying more information would be provided by the SHA at a technical briefing on Tuesday. 

He said about 10 of the care home's residents (including the infected resident) and 10 staff "who are not close contacts" are being monitored for symptoms. 

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