At the latest COVID-19 news conference in Regina, it was announced all the provincial public health orders will remain in effect two more weeks to April 26, 2021.
By then, Merriman said, “we will have a lot more people vaccinated, and I hope we can start looking at relaxing some of those restrictions. But it’s too soon to tell just yet.”
This extension applies to the provincial orders announced Tuesday, March 9 and the additional restrictions for Regina and area from March 24.
There was no extension of the Regina-area restrictions elsewhere. Moose Jaw and Weyburn are also seeing increased cases due to COVID-19 variants, but the public health orders remain as is with no additional measures.
However, the variants remain a concern. Chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab said in Saskatchewan our “third wave” remains intense in Regina and variants remain a concern in the south central and southeast.
“We have to do whatever we can individually to minimize transmission rising in other parts of Saskatchewan. I think that is critical over the next four to six weeks while our vaccination rates pick up.”
Dr. Shahab also pointed to some numbers on hospitalizations, and pointed to high numbers from December to February. But with the B.1.1.7 variant (the “U.K. variant”), they were now seeing increased numbers for younger residents. The B.1.1.7 is highly transmissible for all age groups, Shahab said.
But he said the mortality rate is much higher for older age groups, even in B.1.1.7. He noted vaccinations were having an impact.
The vaccine rollout remains a focus of attention. More than 230,000 doses have been administered in Saskatchewan, a rate of 20,000 doses per 100,000.
Residents of long term and personal care homes are now close to fully vaccinated: 80 percent age 80 plus, over 70 percent in their 70s, and 35 percent of those in their 60s have received their first shot.
But he said the risk of COVID-19 was high for all ages. For those who had not been vaccinated yet, Merriman urged them when it was your turn to “stick it to COVID” and get vaccinated.
There were appointment clinics operating in over 100 locations, and drive-thru clinics were open in nine locations including the Battlefords.
There was a question about whether more front line workers might be added to the eligibility - in response to comments from Premier Scott Moe that they were considering expanding eligibility to those in some larger workplaces.
Merriman thought what the premier was alluding to was that “we are continuously evolving what we are looking at.”
“The age based sequence is still the best way to get the most vaccines out,” said Merriman. “That’s been proven over the last 90 days.”