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New COVID Variant Causes Stricter Public Health Orders in Regina

by Shanine Sealey

Martensville Collective Health and Wellness (MCHW) has been working hard to keep the community informed and updated when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic. Most recently, MCHW shared a post via social media discussing a conversation that took place with the local Medical Health Officer Dr. Hasselback.

During this conversation, Dr. Hasselback shared information regarding the variants and the vaccine. Currently, Saskatchewan has confirmed cases of both the UK COVID variant, as well as the South African (SA) COVID variant. “At the moment, very few variants are available in our area; however, the SA variant is north of us and the UK variant is south of us,” MCHW explained.

For those following the news in Regina, it is clear that the UK variant is taking over and has become the predominant strain for that area. On Tuesday, March 23, the Government of Saskatchewan announced steps to help slow the transition of this variant.

Effective March 23 indoor public gatherings are prohibited in Regina and area. Those living within the specified region of Regina and surrounding communities are currently restricted to immediate household members only, unlike the remainder of the province, who recently had restrictions lifted to allow up to ten individuals from a total of three households for private indoor gatherings.

Additionally, there is a travel ban for Regina and area, which is asking that travel in or out of this area be avoided unless absolutely necessary. Those that are able to work from home are also being asked to do so.
Effective Sunday, March 28, all restaurants and licensed establishments must close for in-person dining, only allowing for take-out and delivery at this time. Event venues, museums, libraries, live theatre, cinemas, arcades, bowling and science centres and other non-essential indoor locations that had previous limits of 30 individuals are not permitted to operate at this time. Places of worship will continue to operate with a maximum of 30 individuals.

This public health order is set to remain in effect until April 5, and will be reviewed at that time. For more information on the current public health order in Regina and area, as well as the public health order in effect for the rest of the province, visit www.saskatchewan.ca. General public inquiries may be directed to COVID19@health.gov.sk.ca.

As of now, all positive COVID tests within Saskatchewan are being immediately tested for variants with a preliminary test, which is reported within an hour or two of the test. If any concerns occur, the sample is sent to Manitoba for confirmatory testing which can take up to a week.

According to MCHW, “Emerging evidence is showing that these new variants are 70% more infectious – meaning they spread faster, have worse outcomes, are more lethal, and are more likely to result in hospitalizations. The same groups that were the highest of risk for the original strain remain the highest risk for these new strains.”

To help protect yourself, as well as others, continue following the same methods – limit contact with others, wear masks, and ensure proper hand hygiene.

“These new developments arrive on the heels of the vaccine arrival and the future freedom we hoped this would bring. Vaccines ARE still making a significant impact on the bad outcomes of this virus, however, the SA variant is starting to show some “vaccine escape”. This means that this variant is occasionally outsmarting our vaccine. Our current vaccination strategy is still very important, however it may be adjusted as further information becomes available,” the information provided by MCHW stated.

When it comes to the “3 household rule” that the province has (excluding Regina and area), MCHW explains that this is meant to be an exclusive relationship between all three households and anyone over the age of 50 or with medical conditions should not participate in these extended households.

“Since the new variants are so infectious, should a person living in your home become infected, all people living in your house may be asked to isolate for a longer period of time than before, up to 24 days. This is because the new variants are so contagious, that they are not believed to be contained well within a house, even if a person is isolating in a separate part of the house.”

There is still a light at the end of the tunnel; however, for now, lets all remain vigilant and help protect one another.

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