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COVID-19: Saskatchewan health officials respond to first cases of Omicron variant

Click to play video: 'COVID-19: First Omicron variant cases reported in Saskatchewan' COVID-19: First Omicron variant cases reported in Saskatchewan
WATCH: The Ministry of Health said Wednesday that four members from a single, undisclosed Saskatchewan household have screened positive for the Omicron variant of concern after returning from travel. – Dec 8, 2021

On Wednesday, four cases of the new Omicron variant of COVID-19 were reported in Saskatchewan.

Read more: COVID-19 — Saskatchewan reports first Omicron variant cases

The Ministry of Health says despite heightened concerns over increased transmissibility and the number of unknowns, the recommendation from the province’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Saqib Shahab is still “status quo” with regards to public health.

Speaking with media Wednesday afternoon, Saskatchewan Health Minister Paul Merriman said he expects Shahab will likely encourage people to get vaccinated and continue proper handwashing and masking habits moving into the winter months.

“Go out and get your booster shot (and) your kids’ shot. This is all going to help,” Merriman said. “And if you haven’t got your first dose, go out and get it.”

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The province announced this week it is lowering the age of eligibility for third vaccine doses to 50 years and up, meaning more people could get the third jab before the holidays begin.

Read more: Saskatchewan government broadens COVID-19 vaccine booster eligibility

Public health expert and physician Dr. Dennis Kendel says it’s a critical time to get a booster shot if you are eligible.

He adds that a growing concern is the number of communities across the province with significantly low vaccine uptake for first and second doses.

“That remains a very high-risk population,” Kendel said. “And of course as it spreads through the unvaccinated population then it also exposes more people to the virus who are vaccinated.”

He says those are likely to be the areas hit hardest by this latest, highly transmissible variant.

“I would encourage people who live in those areas of the province to be especially careful if they’re gathering over the holidays,” he said. “Because they will be at significantly higher risk.”

Read more: Omicron symptoms ‘totally different’ from Delta COVID-19 variant, South African doctor says

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Health experts across the country are urging people not to take this latest variant lightly, and to continue handwashing, masking, social distancing when necessary and getting vaccinated as soon as possible.

Shahab is expected to speak about the new variant in an SHA update on Thursday.

Click to play video: 'Canadian Armed Forces member reflects on time spent in Saskatchewan hospitals helping COVID-19 patients' Canadian Armed Forces member reflects on time spent in Saskatchewan hospitals helping COVID-19 patients
Canadian Armed Forces member reflects on time spent in Saskatchewan hospitals helping COVID-19 patients – Dec 4, 2021
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