Sask. government confirms first case of Omicron variant
Saskatchewan is reporting its first case of the Omicron variant.
Four people from one household screened positive for the variant, a statement from the Ministry of Health said. The family has a travel history to one of the countries of concern identified by the Government of Canada.
These individuals and their close contacts have all been identified and are currently isolating,” the statement said. “Contact investigations underway have confirmed that the risk of community transmission is low.”
The tests will undergo whole genome sequencing to confirm they are the B.1.1.529 variant. The ministry said the geographical region of these cases will not be reported.
The ministry said additional Omicron cases are anticipated, and residents should continue to adhere to pandemic-related restrictions to slow the spread of COVID-19 and its variants.
On Wednesday, health minister Paul Merriman said based on the advice from the province’s chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab, the best way forward is to stick with the status quo.
“The best thing is to get vaccinated, make sure you’re doing your social distancing and you’re adhering to the public health guidelines like wearing your mask when you need to. That’s what Dr. Shahab is saying,” Merriman said.
The minister added Dr. Shahab would likely provide more information on the current Omicron situation in Saskatchewan on Thursday.
The Saskatchewan Health Authority said it is keeping a close eye on the Omicron variant, saying it does raise concern.
“We understand, based on the evidence, that [Omicron] is perhaps more transmissible than other variants. But we don’t know yet what the severity of that particular variant would be,” Will said. ”It’s a bit of an unknown for us.”
Dr. Dennis Kendel, a physician and public policy consultant, said vaccinations appear to be the prime defence against the variant.
“There’s no doubt that it spreads quite aggressively, but the really good news is it sounds like the vaccines are equally effective against it as they were against Delta, so it doesn’t look like it’s going to pose a greater risk in terms of severity of illness,” Dr. Kendel said.
He said to reduce to spread, everyone should get their COVID-19 booster shot as soon as they are eligible.
In Saskatchewan, everyone over the age of 50 is currently eligible to receive their booster shot once six months has passed from their second dose.
“As we have become familiar with [the Delta variant], we were becoming more complacent and feeling that everybody who was vaccinated was well protected. For the most part, vaccination is really good protection but there can be breakthrough. We probably need to minimize mixing in large groups,” Dr. Kendel said.