The Saskatchewan government is making changes to its self-isolation requirements and testing rules.
The self-isolation requirement is now five days from the date of test or 48 hours after symptoms have ended, whichever is later, down from 10 days for fully vaccinated individuals.
Those who are not vaccinated or are partially vaccinated will still be required to self-isolate for 10 days from the date of test or 48 hours after your symptoms have ended, whichever is later.
Effective immediately, if fully vaccinated and asymptomatic individuals test positive on a rapid test, they will not be required to get a PCR test to confirm the diagnosis and are required to self-isolate for five days.
PCR testing is still recommended for those who have symptoms, and priority populations like health care workers, long-term and personal care home residents and anyone who cares for vulnerable populations.
If individuals do test positive on either a rapid antigen test or PCR test, they are asked to notify their close contacts. This is anyone with whom they have been in close contact — within two metres — for longer than 15 minutes.
Close contacts must isolate for 14 days from the date of last exposure unless they are fully vaccinated and do not have symptoms. The government advises close contacts to take rapid testing if asymptomatic, ideally between day five and day seven of the 14 day isolation.
Premier Scott Moe said this is an effort to reduce the strain on the Saskatchewan Health Authority testing sites.
Moe said there will be no gathering restrictions or other public measures coming to the province at this time.
Both Moe and Health Minister Paul Merriman defended the government’s choice to not implement further restrictions.
“We are not downplaying this at all…we’re in a better position right now than other provinces,” Merriman said.
He said the province is in a “good position” due to the abundance of COVID-19 rapid antigen tests and the vaccine booster program.
“We’ve seen other provinces that have had restrictions in and their cases are still surging,” Merriman added.
Merriman added if Ontario and Quebec, who are experiencing record breaking cases, start to see an increase in their hospitalizations then Saskatchewan “would have a different decision” when it comes to restrictions.
Though there aren’t limits on gathering sizes, Saskatchewan chief medical health officer advised residents to only have up to 10 people, or two to three households, in your home at one time.
Dr. Saqib Shahab added that Omicron impacts individuals differently based on their vaccination status.
“Over the next few weeks and months, many of us, despite our best efforts, will get exposed to Omicron. Most of us who are fully vaccinated and (have) boosters will either have no symptoms, or will get mild symptoms,” Shahab said.
As of Thursday’s COVID-19 daily update, there are 2,176 active cases in the province. There have been 117 confirmed Omicron cases, and 1,055 probable cases detected through screening.
In a video posted to his Twitter page on Dec. 23, Moe said gathering restrictions and other measures haven’t been “ruled out” for this week.
“We do not want to go back to shutting down activities, restricting businesses in our communities and taking away your personal freedoms,” he added.
He asked residents to get their booster shots and use rapid test kits to help control the spread of the virus.