Private gatherings to be limited to 15

The province’s chief medical health officer has responded in the wake of an increase in COVID-19 infections over the weekend.

Dr. Saqib Shahab announced at a news conference Tuesday that the maximum number of people at private gatherings in the home will be reduced to 15 people, effective Friday.

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This reduction does not apply to gathering sizes for restaurants, licensed establishments and banquet halls, weddings, funerals or religious gatherings.

“I’m here today because we have seen a dramatic increase in the number of cases in the province,” said Dr. Shahab. There had been 140 new cases since Friday, he said.

While community transmission has been relatively low in Saskatchewan, “we have seen how quickly and how instantly it can change,” he said. Cases early on in the pandemic were linked to international travel, and later to gatherings.

He said cases linked to contact to known cases or mass gatherings had risen from 53 percent in the first week of October to 70 percent this past week. He also said contact tracing investigations are having a harder time because of the larger number of contacts people are having.

Dr. Shahab also said COVID-19 is now being transmitted province-wide, with a case or two in every part of the province.

“This is why it is essential to increase vigilance and adhere to public health guidelines in all settings,” said Dr. Shahab.

He called reducing gathering sizes an important step they could take right now. That, along with mask use, was a way they could keep numbers low and keep businesses and schools open.

The announcement prompted reporters at the news conference in Regina to ask if Saskatchewan was in a second wave. Dr. Shahab stopped short of saying that but did acknowledge an upward trend.

He said they were seeing mass transmission events linked to gatherings. “But we are also seeing a consistent increase in person to person transmission,” said Dr. Shahab.

Dr. Shahab was also asked why there were restrictions on private gatherings when it was public gatherings that seemed to be causing the most problems.

He responded that private settings were particularly challenging settings. “It is very hard to physically distance four people in an average room,” said Dr. Shahab. That was an area to pay attention to as well, he said.

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