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Saskatchewan activates its pandemic plan following new presumptive cases of COVID-19

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WATCH: The Saskatchewan Health Authority announces new measures to ensure the harm from novel coronavirus is limited – Mar 15, 2020

The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) announced on Saturday they have activated aspects of its pandemic plan following more positive cases of COVID-19 in the province.

“We’ve seen a rapid change in the world over the last 48 hours and it can be overwhelming at times,” said Dr. Susan Shaw, SHA’s chief medical officer.

“Despite the fast pace of change, those of us in health care prepare for this every day. We’re ready and able to adapt to health care when events like this occur.”

READ MORE: University of Regina students’ COVID-19 test results negative

Since October, the SHA has refined and updated their pandemic plan, which outlines what needs to be done in a pre-pandemic, pandemic and post-pandemic scenario. This was similarly done during the arrival of H1N1 in 2009 and ebola in 2014.

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Shaw says the province’s pandemic plan has a three-prong approach.

The first is to contain the virus as soon as possible. This includes increasing testing throughout the province and activating surveillance at hospitals and long-term care homes.

 

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The SHA opened two COVID-19 testing centres in Saskatoon and Regina. Another one is expected to open in Prince Albert on Monday, and the health authority is looking into whether one needs to be opened in northern Saskatchewan.

The SHA is not disclosing the location of the testing sites to protect people’s privacy, said Derek Miller, SHA’s site command lead for the province’s emergency operations centre.

People need to be referred to a testing site either by their family doctor or by calling the 811 health line.

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The province’s second step in their pandemic plan is to delay community transmission as much as possible.

“There’s no evidence of community transmission at this time,” said Dr. Julie Kryzanowski, chief medical health officer with the SHA.

The two people who have tested positive for COVID-19 both returned home from travelling. Neither required admittance to the hospital and both are self-isolating at home, said Kryzanowski.

The third step in the province’s pandemic plan is to mitigate the transmission as long as possible. This includes aggressively tracing any possible contact.

The SHA says people who have returned from travelling need to self-isolate for 14 days. If anyone is feeling ill, they advise people to stay home and call the 811 health line.

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“[COVID-19] will not affect all communities in the same way,” said Shaw. “The actual risk depends on strength, weaknesses and the level of measures in place.”

READ MORE: Saskatoon activates ’emergency operations centre’ in response to COVID-19

Saskatchewan’s Chief Health Medical Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab has assessed the public health risk associated with COVID-19 as low.

“What this means is that more than 80 per cent of people do not become seriously ill and will recover without specific treatment,” said Kryzanowski.

Because there’s no specific treatment or vaccine, everyone is at some risk of getting COVID-19 said Kryzanowski. She added that the global pandemic will likely continue for the next few weeks, and months.

“We’re all in this together,” Kryzanowski said. “And my message to the people of Saskatchewan today is to take care of yourself and each other.”

READ MORE: Saskatchewan confirms second presumptive case of COVID-19: Ministry of Health

Concerned about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials say the risk is very low for Canadians, but they caution against travel to affected areas (a list can be found here). If you do travel to these places, they recommend you self-monitor to see whether you develop symptoms and if you do, to contact public health authorities.

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Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. And if you get sick, stay at home.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.