Coronavirus: No new COVID-19 deaths, Saskatchewan lab greenlit to test for variants

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The Saskatchewan government says testing for COVID-19 variants of concern can begin in the province after the Roy Romanow Provincial Laboratory (RRPL) completed the validation process.

According to officials, the Regina lab has the capacity to test up to 192 samples per week, while 120 will continue to be sent to the National Microbiology Lab in Manitoba to ensure a larger sample size.

Read more: Border crossings steady for Saskatchewan truckers through pandemic

“Cases are selected to have genetic sequencing if they have any identifiably risk factors to be due to a variant of concern (VOC). This would include links to international travel, outbreaks, unexpected severe illness,” read a statement from Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA).

“Additionally, cases are selected randomly from across the province to monitor all variants circulating in the province.

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“With (RRPL) performing variant identification within the province there will be a decrease in time between a case being detected and determining if it is due to a VOC.”

SHA said it’s too early to provide anything specific on the timeline decrease for detecting variants.

For the second day in a row, Saskatchewan’s coronavirus-related death toll remained at 385 with none reported in the daily update.

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According to the government on Monday, there were 154 new cases with the overall infection total in Saskatchewan now at 28,801. The new seven-day average of daily cases is down to 143.

The province’s hospitals are currently providing care for 151 patients with COVID-19 — 130 are receiving inpatient care and 21 are in intensive care. This is the lowest number of reported hospitalizations since Jan. 1, when it was 142.

Active cases, which are total cases minus recoveries and deaths, now sit at 1,551 in Saskatchewan, according to the press release.

Read more: Saskatchewan expanding COVID-19 rapid testing

The number of people who have recovered from the virus has grown to a total of 26,865 following 146 more recoveries, provincial health officials said.

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According to the press release, 1,741 COVID-19 tests were performed on Feb. 28. To date, 578,066 tests have been carried out in the province.

-With files from David Baxter

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

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. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus. In some provinces and municipalities across the country, masks or face coverings are now mandatory in indoor public spaces.

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