Saskatchewan government restricting travel in, out of Hutterite colonies following COVID-19 outbreak

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WATCH: Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said on Wednesday that government officials are working with Hutterite community leaders on imposing further travel restrictions between communities after several isolated incidents of people who have travelled for non-essential reasons.

With the coronavirus active in 17 Hutterite colonies in Saskatchewan, the government says it will be imposing restrictions on non-essential travel to the affected communities.

Premier Scott Moe made the announcement on Wednesday following a record-setting day for cases in the province.

“We are working with these local (Hutterite) leaders to limit essential travel to only a small number of designated individuals. This includes travel between Hutterite communities,” Moe said.

All others are being asked to avoid travelling in and out of their affected colonies.

Read more: Hutterian Safety Council urges ‘common sense’ when dealing with coronavirus

Last week, Minister of Rural and Remote Health Warren Kaeding informed residents in the affected colonies to stay in their own community as much as possible, self-isolate, get tested if feeling unwell or have been in contact with someone with coronavirus, and to limit group gatherings.

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“For the most part we’ve had good cooperation,” Moe said.

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“However, there have been a few isolated reports of people not following guidelines, and they’ve travelled out of their community for non-essential reasons, and even when they may not have been feeling well.”

Of the 60 cases Saskatchewan reported on Wednesday, 48 are from colonies in the southwest and west-central regions.

Additionally, 43 of the COVID-19 cases are located in a single communal living setting in the rural municipality of Lawtonia.

The other Hutterite communities with active cases are in the following rural areas:

  • Auverge (No. 76)
  • Biggar (No. 347)
  • Carmichael (No. 109)
  • Eagle Creek (No. 376)
  • Grandview (No. 349)
  • Harris (No. 316)
  • Kindersley (No. 290)
  • Lawtonia (No. 135)
  • Maple Creek (No. 111)
  • Newcombe (No. 260)
  • Perdue (No. 346)
  • Pleasant Valley (No. 288)
  • Prariedale (No. 321)
  • Saskatchewan Landing (No. 167)
  • St. Andrews (No. 287)
  • Tramping Lake (No. 380)
  • Webb (No. 138)

Saskatchewan’s chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab attributes the outbreak to the “strong and social connections” among colonies in Saskatchewan, and those who live communally and are travelling between Saskatchewan and Alberta.

Shahab says several cases have been transmitted through asymptomatic people, as well as those who have attended weddings and funerals.

“Many colonies out of the 17 have had only one or two cases because they were quick and everyone in the colony was well aware of the symptoms, they were quick to seek testing and isolate themselves in their immediate household,” Shahab said.

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Read more: Manitoba Hutterite colonies seeing cluster of coronavirus cases, 20% voluntarily shut down

He added that the Hutterian Safety Council has been educating communities on how to safely serve large meals and physically distance.

“Lots of colonies took up these recommendations and haven’t seen COVID,” Shahab said.