3 more COVID-19 variant cases detected in Sask.; 1st B.1.351 case confirmed
REGINA -- The Government of Saskatchewan reported three new confirmed cases of COVID-19 variants in the province, including two cases of the variant first found in the U.K .and the province's first case of the B.1.351 variant.
The province said the B.1.1.7 UK variant was detected in two people from the Regina zone. The two were tested at the end of January. Based on contact tracing to date, the government said these cases are not currently considered to be linked to travel at this time.
The B.1.351 SA variant was found in one person from the North Central zone. This person was also tested at the end of January. Public health is investigating.
The province said there is also one presumptive case of the B.1.1.7 UK variant in a person in the Saskatoon zone. The person came from out of province to Saskatoon, for acute care. Public health is working to confirm the results.
Saskatchewan has confirmed seven variant cases to date; six B.1.1.7 UK including one presumptive case, and one B.1.351 SA.
4 DEATHS, 122 NEW CASES, 244 RECOVERIES
Four new COVID-19 deaths were reported in Saskatchewan on Tuesday, along with 122 new cases and 244 recoveries.
The four deaths include three people in the 80-plus age range; two from Regina and one from Saskatoon. The fourth death was a person in their 70s from the Regina zone.
There are 174 people in hospital related to the disease in Saskatchewan, including 16 people in intensive care.
A total of 1,530 cases are considered active. The province's seven-day average of new cases is 156, or 12.7 per 100,000 population.
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said the Roy Romanow Provincial Laboratory is currently in the process of becoming certified to test variant cases.
"That process is underway and I would expect that we would be able to identify variants at the Roy Romanow lab within the province of Saskatchewan sometime in early March," Moe said.
Dr. Saqib Shahab, the province's Chief Medical Health Officer, said around six per cent of test samples are being screened for variants of concern, including travel related cases, outbreaks, cases in people under 50 in intensive care, as well as random sampling.
He added that having the ability to test variant cases at the Roy Romanow lab will speed up the confirmation process.
"Having that capacity in house will help us increase the proportion that we can screen and it will also shorten the time it takes to get the results from one to two weeks, to a few days," Shahab said.
While variant cases remain low in Saskatchewan, Shahab said an increase in transmission of variant cases in the community could warrant consideration of further public health measures.
"Certainly at a local level if there was an increase in transmission, irrespective of whether it was identified to be a major concern or not, there may be a need for more specific and more stringent local public health measures," Shahab said.
"Similarly for other variants of concern as they emerge, we will continue to monitor what are their specific characteristics and if any public health measures need any further adjustment."
In a release, the province said Tuesday's new cases are located in the Far North West (11), Far North Central (five), Far North East (16), North West (10), North Central (four), North East (two), Saskatoon (25), Central East (seven), Regina (37), and South East (one) zones.
Four new cases are pending residence information. Nine cases pending residence information were assigned.
There were 1,872 COVID-19 tests processed in Saskatchewan on Monday.
The government said 549 doses of COVID-19 vaccine were administered in Saskatchewan on Monday, bringing the province's total vaccine distribution to 62,342 doses.