Saskatchewan officials say province is preparing for potential coronavirus outbreak

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WATCH: Saskatchewan government preparing for potential a potential coronavirus outbreak – Mar 11, 2020

Saskatchewan government officials are denying accusations from the provincial NDP that the province is not prepared for a potential outbreak of the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19.

“They’re trying to prepare for every scenario,” Health Minister Jim Reiter said. “Part of the plan is looking at supplies. Not just provincially, but nationally, there are discussions with federal officials making sure all provinces are prepared.”

Opposition health critic Vicki Mowat claims her party is hearing differently from some people working in the province’s health-care sector.

“One of the concerns we are hearing from a lot of folks who are in the health-care sector is that they haven’t received instructions on what to do,” Mowat said. “They don’t know how to be able to move forward and haven’t received anything beyond the public notices that have come out.

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“People deserve to know that their government has a plan in place if there is an outbreak.”

Reiter said he is confident in the province’s health officials and relies on them to make the right decisions in terms of preparation.

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“Certainly, I’m not a medical professional and I don’t pretend to be. I’m a politician and I think my job is to ensure that medical professionals have the resources they need. We trust them to do their job,” Reiter said.

The province says it is working to update a 10-year-old pandemic strategy to include a plan for COVID-19.

“The plan is a work in progress. Medical officials, [provincial chief medical health officer] Dr. [Saqib] Shahab and his crew have been working on that for quite some time, and they’ll continue to work on it,” Reiter said.

READ MORE: COVID cases in Canada tracker: How many new cases of COVID-19 today?

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“They are in constant communication with other provinces. I have a great deal of comfort in Dr. Shahab and his crew that they’ll handle this appropriately.”

Based on statistics provided to the public by Shahab, 80 per cent of people infected with COVID-19 will not require hospitalization but, rather, self-isolation.

“Obviously, we will need beds for the others…they’re [Dr. Shahab and his crew] going to look at what kind of capacity we have in the existing system, hospitals across the province,” Reiter said.

“We’re also on the downward slope of influenza season right now, so the longer this goes without confirmed cases in the province, the better we will be there because that will open some capacity.”

There have yet to be any confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Saskatchewan, but Dr. Suresh Tikoo, a professor and director at the University of Saskatchewan’s School of Public Health, said more precautions need to be taken.

“Any type of gathering, whether it is NHL, NBA, Major League Baseball, [the] Junos or any concert, have to be cancelled because that is the best source of spreading the virus,” he told Global News.
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“Containment of this is very important. Otherwise, it will spread to everybody.”

The Canadian government launched a $1-billion response fund to fuel the domestic and global fight to contain the novel coronavirus on Wednesday.

-With files from Nathaniel Dove

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