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COVID-19: Saskatchewan expands booster program Monday to those 18 and up

Click to play video: 'Saskatchewan expands booster program to those 18 and up' Saskatchewan expands booster program to those 18 and up
WATCH: Saskatchewan is expanding its COVID-19 booster program in an effort, officials say, to mitigate the threat of the Omicron variant. – Dec 17, 2021

The Saskatchewan government is expanding its COVID-19 booster program with all individuals 18 and older eligible for the shot as of Dec. 20.

Read more: Omicron variant multiplies 70 times faster in airways than Delta

The government is also reducing the interval between the second dose and booster shot from five months to three months.

The province added that vaccines are widely available through clinics and pharmacies in communities across Saskatchewan.

Premier Scott Moe made the announcement on Thursday morning, and said going forward the province should assume community spread is happening in the province.

Moe said the most effective tool the province has in addressing all variants – including Omicron, is vaccines, which is why the government is expanding the booster program.

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“This will provide many, many more Saskatchewan residents the opportunity to go out and receive their booster dose of COVID-19 vaccine,” Moe told reporters.

Uptake of booster and third doses for all eligible residents is 38 per cent, with more than 159,649 doses administered.

Moe said there are about 400,000 doses available in Saskatchewan and the federal government has indicated they will be distributing more.

Read more: Declared COVID-19 outbreaks in Saskatchewan

The provincial government is also encouraging residents to pick up rapid tests that are “widely available to the public free of charge.”

Moe said more than 8 million tests have been given out to at least 250 locations in Saskatchewan.

The province has a standing monthly order of 4 million test kits from the government which will continue into the foreseeable future.

Test kits are available in some local fire halls, municipal offices, vaccination sites, some Co-op locations, malls, libraries, schools and local chambers of commerce.

Moe added if other businesses or organizations wish to give out test kits, they should reach out to the government.

A list of where to get your booster shot or a rapid test kit is available on the government’s website.

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On Thursday, Moe said testing is very accessible within the province.

“It’s also more normalized and it needs to be more normalized in the weeks and months ahead. It’s a very effective line of defence,” Moe said.

Moe told reporters that he decided to take a rapid test on Thursday morning after a “busy week” and before returning home before the holidays.

Read more: Omicron FAQ: Everything you need to know about the COVID-19 variant

“I thought I should just take a rapid test to have a break if something should not be right,” Moe said.

“I think I’ll likely do one whenever I feel appropriate in the days ahead,” Moe said.

The premier is urging residents to pick up a rapid testing kit themselves to have at home and use one when you go out to visit someone who may be elderly or immunocompromised or when you may have been in a large crowd or exposed.

As for travelling over the holidays, Moe said there are no provincial recommendations against international travel.

On Wednesday, federal health minister Jean-Yves Duclos said the federal government was officially advising Canadians to avoid non-essential travel outside Canada.

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Click to play video: 'COVID-19: Feds advise Canadians to avoid non-essential travel outside Canada' COVID-19: Feds advise Canadians to avoid non-essential travel outside Canada
COVID-19: Feds advise Canadians to avoid non-essential travel outside Canada – Dec 15, 2021

“We have in this nation, and we feel strongly, that we have some of the most robust protocols available in any country or any place in the world when it comes to not only international travel, but also inter-provincial travel,” Moe said, pointing to vaccination and testing requirements.

Moe added residents should be cautious during their travels and should assume Omicron is present wherever you are in the world, and in Saskatchewan.

Though residents are required to test when travelling internationally, Moe also suggested residents have rapid test kits at home to test in the following days after they get back from their trip.

Saskatchewan NDP ‘concerned,’ looking for further plans should cases grow

Following Moe’s announcement on Thursday, official Opposition leader Ryan Meili welcomed the news that the booster program will be expanded.

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“Getting people that third shot is essential, and we’re happy to see the government finally moving forward with a plan for that,” Meili told reporters.

However, Meili said this is only one piece of the puzzle when it comes to stopping the spread.

He said it’s concerning that the government has not released plans for any further public health measures.

“We need clear, simple guidance on what people should be doing in terms of Christmas gatherings. Second, we need to see the modelling to know what’s coming next,” Meili said.

Meili said a roadmap needs to be provided with what the next steps will be should cases grow.

 

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