The virus variant first detected in the U.K. has arrived in Saskatchewan, according to the province. The variant of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 has been detected in two residents in the Regina zone.
The province says a contact investigation found that one of the cases had travelled from the U.K. to Canada. The second coronavirus variant case is a close contact of the traveler.
The two people were tested mid-January. The province says the process can take one to two weeks because when travelers are tested for virus variants, the tests must be genome-sequenced at the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg.
Both residents with the coronavirus variant quarantined following their travel and are now no longer infectious, according to the province. Public health's contact investigation found that all contacts of the two residents have been identified, and that there is no indication of further transmission.
In a COVID-19 update in Regina on Tuesday, Premier Scott Moe urged Sask. residents to stay vigilant.
"We know this is a more contagious variant, which serves to reinforce to each of us why we need to keep doing what we know works to reduce the spread of this virus, regardless of which variant it is," said Moe.
"We need to continue with our physical distancing. We need to continue wearing a mask. We need to continue to stay at home when we are not feeling well and to avoid unnecessary travel. And we need to always follow up with all of the other public health orders and guidelines that keep ourselves safe, keep our family safe and keep all of those around us safe."
Saskatchewan Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab said the virus variant's presence in the province must be watched closely.
"Are variants of concern more transmissible? Are they more lethal? How effective are our current and future vaccines against current and future variants? That all is going to be monitored very closely," said Shahab.
The Sask. government says it is considering the impact of virus variants on COVID-19 planning. That includes any required increase to public health measures and surge capacity planning.
"If a flag goes up ... there's international travel or there's other concerns ... a normal test result takes between one to three days, and genotyping will take another two days," Shahab said of the extended period needed to identify coronavirus variants.
"So even in those situations, we can't rely on waiting for a variant strain to be identified to take all the public health measures. So, for example, if you are you know, if you are symptomatic, you should isolate immediately and then go for testing while you're isolating."
If required, the province says public health will issue a public service announcement to alert the general public to any risk due to any confirmed case of a virus variant of concern.
Eight more COVID-19 related deaths in Saskatchewan were announced on Tuesday:
One death was in the 40 to 49 age group in the northwest zone.
One death was in the 50 to 59 age group in Regina
Two deaths were in the 60 to 69 age group in the northwest and north central zones.
Two deaths were in the 70 to 79 age group in Saskatoon and the southeast zone.
Two deaths were in the 80 and over age group in Saskatoon and the southeast zone.
There are 223 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the provincial total to date to 24,236 cases — 2,320 of which are considered active.
A total of 21,602 individuals have recovered from the COVID-19 to date, 266 of whom were announced recovered on Tuesday.
Of the new cases, 14 are located in the far northwest, eight in the far north central, eight in the far northeast, 18 in the northwest, 28 in the north central, seven in the northeast, 38 in Saskatoon, six in the central west, three in the central east, 65 in Regina, seven in the south central and eight in the southeast zones.
Thirteen of the new cases have pending residence information.
The Ministry of Health is updating its data reporting systems, according to the province, so hospitalization data is not available for Tuesday.
There were 1,974 COVID-19 tests processed in Saskatchewan on Monday.
There were 106 COVID-19 vaccine doses administered on Monday in Saskatchewan. To date, a total of 35,575 vaccine doses have been administered in the province.
As of Tuesday, 109 per cent of the doses received in Saskatchewan have been administered. The overage is due to drawing extra doses from vials of vaccine received, according to the province. These doses were administered in the far northeast zone and in Saskatoon.
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