No new coronavirus deaths; 133 more presumptive variant cases in Saskatchewan

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WATCH: Global News spoke to Canadians who have spent the past year living on federal COVID-19 benefits, from the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) to the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB). While everyone said they were grateful for the government's help, many said they were barely able to make ends meet and have struggled to adapt to the new reality – Mar 15, 2021

The provincial government says 133 more COVID-19 variant cases have been detected in Saskatchewan.

In addition to the 70 confirmed variant of concern (VoC) confirmed cases, government officials said on Monday there are 210 presumptive cases which are located in the far north east (1), Saskatoon (4), central East (5), Regina (185), south central (10) and south east (5) zones.

Read more: SHA expands age criteria for AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine site in Regina

Public health officials are asking people in Regina to re-commit to best prevention practices to protect against COVID-19 due to an increase of community transmission of VoC in the city.

“Many of Regina’s outbreaks are a result of people of going to work and public places while symptomatic,” read a statement from the provincial government.

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“At this time, it is recommended that Regina and area residents — particularly those over age 50 — should not consider increasing their household bubbles to include two to three households up to 10 people. They should consider remaining with their current household only.”

According to the government on Monday, there were 110 new cases with the overall infection total in Saskatchewan now at 30,727. The new seven-day average of daily cases is 132.

The province’s hospitals are currently providing care for 137 patients with COVID-19 — 107 are receiving inpatient care and 30 are in intensive care.

Active cases, which are total cases minus recoveries and deaths, now sit at 1,299 in Saskatchewan, according to the press release. Officials said this is the lowest number of active cases since Nov. 9, 2020.

Read more: Saskatoon companies to fill PPE order for Saskatchewan schools

The number of people who have recovered from the virus has grown to a total of 29,021 following 207 more recoveries, provincial health officials said.

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According to the press release, 2,013 COVID-19 tests were performed on March 14. To date, 612,606 tests have been carried out in the province.

A total of 29,037 second doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Saskatchewan, provincial government officials said.

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There have been 407 COVID-19-related deaths in Saskatchewan to date.

Epidemiologist calls for circuit-breaker lockdown

As Regina opened up an AstraZeneca drive-thru immunization site to the general public on Monday, one epidemiologist says vaccines will not solve Saskatchewan’s immediate problems with VoC.

Dr. Nazeem Muhajarine told Global News if health officials don’t immediately implement additional measures, case numbers “could quickly escalate into a third wave.”

Nearly half of Regina’s 493 COVID-19 cases are confirmed or presumptive VoC cases.

“We just don’t want to take the chances of seeding this variant to other places outside of Regina,” said Muhajarine, adding a surge in variants will lead to an increase in hospitalizations, ICU patients and, ultimately, deaths.

“We don’t have to do the same thing all over the place, but we have to do the right thing in the right places.”

The right thing for health officials to do in this situation, according to Muhajarine, is implement a two to three week circuit-breaker lockdown in the Regina zone.

“With a lockdown, we create a sense of emergency and urgency that this is serious,” he said.

Muhajarine said government response needs to be driven by case numbers not the arrival of vaccine doses.

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March 9, the Saskatchewan government eased restrictions on indoor gathering sizes and worship services. However, Muhajarine calls the move “premature,” adding officials should have waited for case counts to decline further.

The provincial government has previously said it is monitoring VoC in Regina and could impose additional measures in the future.

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The connection between pandemic practices and flu declines – Mar 15, 2021

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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For full COVID-19 coverage, visit the Global News coronavirus web page.

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