Public health order extended to Jan. 29

At their latest COVID-19 update on Tuesday, it was confirmed by the province that they are extending their current public health order until Jan. 29.

This extends by two weeks the order that took effect Dec. 17 which was set to expire Jan. 15.

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According to the province's news release, included in the order are the following:

Private, indoor gatherings are still limited to immediate household members only. The outdoor gatherings are limited to up to 10 people only, provided physical distancing can be maintained. All public health orders for licensed establishments, sports, fitness and dance; places of worship, and mandatory masking remain in place, and non-essential interprovincial travel is being discouraged.

Premier Moe noted that prior to Christmas these measures had started to have a positive effect in lowering their case numbers. But since Christmas and New Years they were seeing case numbers rise again. “That’s why these restrictions are being extended an additional two weeks.”

The Chief Medical Health Officer will review the order closer to Jan. 29 at which time it could be extended or revised again.

There was also an update of the vaccine rollout. As of Jan. 12, 9,880 doses of COVID-19 vaccine were reported as having been administered in Saskatchewan, with 903 of these doses administered on Jan. 11.

Moe said things will be done slightly differently going forward to speed up the vaccine administration. They are now administering all the doses of Pfizer vaccine they receive as soon as they receive them.

As for Moderna, the first batch had been sent to rural and remote areas, but the next shipment of 5,400 will be sent to 50 communities in the southeast and east, which will allow it to be administered quickly.

Finally, guidance has changed from Pfizer that allows the vaccines to be moved and administered at secondary locations, such as to long term care facilities.

“We do have to pick up the pace of vaccinations and we will,” Moe said. “These three changes will allow our health care workers to get more Saskatchewan residents vaccinated more quickly in the days and weeks ahead.”

Saskatchewan is due to receive 190,000 vaccines by the end of the first quarter. Moe said they would like to access more vaccines and acknowledged the announcement by the federal government that they have procured an additional 20 million doses from Pfizer. Moe said those might not come in the first quarter, but may arrive sometime in the spring.

The province’s chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab expressed his condolences about the 49 Saskatchewan residents who have passed away since Jan. 1.

“This number is far too high, and it is directly the result of a high community transmission rate.”

Dr. Shahab expressed confidence that continuing the same measures for another two weeks would work, noting the same orders brought down numbers in mid-December before the holidays and Christmas break.

He noted since then testing numbers have come up and case numbers rising as well. But Dr. Shahab also noted there were gatherings that happened that resulted in transmissions between households.

While most public places are complying with guidelines, warning letters have been sent to several bars where business owners and patrons are not complying with guidelines. “There is mingling among tables that is resulting in outbreaks,” said Dr. Shahab. He called for a return to the cautious behaviours seen before.

“We have to recognize that unless all of us pull together, COVID-19 comes back with a vengeance, that’s what we are seeing right now.”

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