People with loved ones in long term care and personal care homes got some long-awaited good news Thursday.
The province announced that beginning next Thursday, April 29, long-term and personal care homes are able to welcome up to two visitors at a time indoors, and up to four visitors at a time outdoors. This is only if at least 90 per cent of residents are fully vaccinated, and three weeks have elapsed since the last second dose.
Also, according to the province, fully vaccinated residents will be allowed to leave and return to a home without being required to quarantine. Public health protocols including masking and physical distancing must still be followed.
"This was our highest priority when we began receiving vaccines," said Mental Health and Addictions, Seniors and Rural and Remote Health Minister Everett Hindley at a news conference in Regina. "This has been an extremely difficult year for those seniors and for their families. We have all seen the tragic results that have occurred when Covid enters seniors homes across Canada including a few in Saskatchewan.”
Hindley said health care workers had been to every care home in the province administering first doses, and most of them have received second doses with just a few more to go.
Hindley noted that as minister for Seniors, the question of when people could be able to visit their relatives in long term or personal care homes was the number one question he had fielded.
“We have said many times the road back to normal is through vaccinations and I think today’s announcement is just a small glimpse of what that looks like.”
Hindley also addressed the issues people were having lately in booking appointments for the COVID-19 vaccine. The eligibility age for booking had lowered to 44 as of Thursday, but Hindley acknowledged the booking system had seen significant uptake resulting in high demand for limited supply, particularly in urban centres. A number of clinics in Saskatoon and Regina were out of appointment times. Hindley called it the “unfortunate result” of not receiving enough vaccines, but pledged that as they receive more vaccines, more appointments will become available.
“We are asking for patience from Saskatchewan residents. Know that we are working at making vaccines available in your community as quickly as possible.”
In his remarks, chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab reported that investigations were still ongoing with the cluster of the P 1 variant in the south, as well as variants of concern.
“That is going to be our reality for the next few weeks,” said Dr. Shahab. But he noted vaccination rates were “remarkable” in many long term and personal care homes — upwards of 90 percent in long term care and 100 percent in personal care homes.
He said if there is high uptake among every age group, “that will ensure we can gradually come out of this pandemic.”