Sask. doctor calls for gathering restrictions as Omicron variant cases climb
A Saskatchewan epidemiologist predicts the province could enter its fifth COVID-19 wave in the coming days – this time driven by the Omicron variant.
Dr. Nazeem Muhajarine said Saskatchewan is starting to see its curve grow exponentially as the province’s active COVID-19 cases nearly doubled in the last five days. As of Tuesday, there were 1,428 active cases.
More than 900 people have tested positive for COVID-19 since Dec. 23.
“Our numbers will continue to rise,” Muhajarine said. “I’m hoping they won’t rise the same way they are in Quebec and Ontario.”
Quebec broke another daily case record with 12,833 new cases on Tuesday. Ontario recorded 8,825 new infections.
In light of the spike in cases, the official opposition is calling on the provincial government to implement public health restrictions ahead of further holiday gatherings.
“We have the ability to look to other provinces and see how quickly Omicron has spread. Saskatchewan still has the lowest vaccination rate and if Omicron were to spread rapidly, as it has in other provinces, the sheer number of cases could have a devastating impact on our health care system,” NDP Leader Ryan Meili said.
“We need to take the spread and the infectivity as seriously as we do the severity.”
Early data shows the Omicron variant could be less severe than Delta when it comes to hospitalizations and deaths. However, Muhajarine said it is still too soon to tell for sure what impact the variant will have on the healthcare system.
As Saskatchewan’s cases increase, the number of COVID-19 patients in the ICU has been cut in half in the last five days. There are now 16 people with the virus receiving critical care.
Given the variant’s high viral load and incubation period, Muhajarine said if Saskatchewan were to see hospitalizations rise from cases, it would likely happen quickly, not in two to three weeks.
Regardless, he says an increase in people self-isolating could disrupt essential services.
“The more people get infected, the more people will need to stay home and will need to take themselves out of circulation and out of work,” Muhajarine said.
Muhajarine said the province should have implemented tougher restrictions two weeks ago, before the holidays. But he says it’s never too late to do more.
Muhajarine is calling on the government to reintroduce gathering restrictions, capacity limits and delay the start of in-person learning in schools.
“If you don’t act today that means you’re losing another day, you’re losing another two days, at which time the transmission and the growth can double,” he said.
Last week, Premier Scott Moe said officials are closely monitoring the Omicron situation and would look at implementing gathering restrictions if needed.
Moe and Health Minister Paul Merriman are expected to provide a COVID-19 update on Thursday.