Health officials warn Regina is a hot spot for contagious COVID-19 variants

·2 min read

REGINA — Officials are asking residents in Saskatchewan's capital to keep following basic public-health advice because variants of the COVID-19 virus are spreading in the community.

Provincial lab results show most of the 70 infections in the province caused by more transmissible strains of the novel coronavirus have been in the Regina area.

There have been lab delays in confirming how many cases are tied to variants, including the strain first identified in the United Kingdom.

On Monday, the Ministry of Health reported the province had nine such cases.

But an analysis of positive cases from January and February confirmed there were 61 more cases involving mutations, nearly all the U.K. strain.

The Health Ministry says many of Regina's COVID-19 outbreaks occurred after people went to work with symptoms.

It's asking residents to work from home when possible, to wear a mask while in public and to avoid non-essential travel.

Another 165 COVID-19 infections were reported across the province Thursday. Regina had 441 of the 1,395 total active cases — the highest of any zone in Saskatchewan.

Hospitals reported 137 patients with the illness, 27 of them in intensive care.

Premier Scott Moe's government has lifted a ban on household visits to allow up to 10 people inside a home at once.

Earlier this week, he and Health Minister Paul Merriman said the number of daily COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations had remained steady, even with more variants present than initially thought.

Moe also said the availability of more vaccines is making it safer to begin loosening restrictions, including the expansion of capacity for worship services on March 19, in time for Easter.

Thursday was the first day eligible seniors could book appointments on the phone or online to receive a first dose of vaccine.

The Saskatchewan Health Authority said shots had been scheduled for about 3,800 people 85 and older. Because of a successful first-day rollout, the province dropped the eligible age to book to 80, effective Friday.

Officials say almost 96,000 vaccine doses have been administered to the most vulnerable, including staff and residents in long-term and personal care homes.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 11, 2021

Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press