Sask. reducing COVID-19 self-isolation period to five days for fully vaccinated residents
The Government of Saskatchewan is reducing the self-isolation period for fully vaccinated individuals that have tested positive for COVID-19, from 10 days to five.
The province said the five day period “more accurately reflects the infectious period for those who have received full protection of immunization," in a news release Thursday.
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe announced the move during a press conference on Thursday morning. Moe said the government is not implementing any further health restrictions at this time.
“We’re continuing to watch our hospitalizations and our intensive care numbers very closely, and we may take further action in the days and weeks ahead,” Moe said Thursday. “But we are not today."
The province also announced changes to COVID-19 testing rules. Effective immediately, asymptomatic residents who test positive on a rapid antigen test, will no longer be recommended to receive a PRC test to confirm.
The self-isolation period remains at 10 days, or 48 hours after your symptoms have ended, for unvaccinated or partially vaccinated individuals that test positive for COVID-19, whichever is longer.
“This will help remove some of the pressure off of that Saskatchewan Health Authority testing system, in particular, as we look ahead to the next number of days and months,” Moe said. “It will allow for many of those health care workers to possibly be providing other services across the health authority.”
Fully vaccinated asymptomatic residents who test positive using either a PCR or rapid antigen test will be required to self-isolate for five days. Residents who receive a positive test result are asked to self-isolate and notify their contacts. Close contacts include anyone you have been within two metres of for longer than 15 minutes.
This flow chart provided by the Government of Saskatchewan explains the new self-isolation rules implemented on Dec. 30, 2021. (Source: Government of Saskatchewan)
PCR tests will continue to be recommended for residents who have COVID-19 symptoms, including cold and flu-like symptoms; and priority populations such as health care workers, long-term and personal care home residents and vulnerable populations.
The Government of Saskatchewan is encouraging residents to continue making use of the rapid antigen tests, to test for asymptomatic cases of COVID-19. Dr. Saqib Shahab, the province’s chief medical health officer, said the effects of the Omicron variant will mostly be mild for fully vaccinated residents.
“Most of us who are fully vaccinated and boosted will either have no symptoms or will get mild symptoms, but again, we will be watching this very closely,” he said.
However, Shahab added that the new variant will be more difficult for residents to avoid, due to its increased transmissibility.
“Many of us are fully vaccinated, we have done well and managed to avoid getting COVID, but the next few weeks and months many of us, despite our best efforts, will get exposed to Omicron,” Shahab said.
According to Shahab, peak Omicron transmission happens two days before and three days after a person starts experiencing symptoms.
“It transmits faster. That’s why isolating for five days if you’re vaccinated and otherwise healthy and symptom-free makes sense,” Shahab said.
Unvaccinated people can stay infectious for longer periods of time, which is why they are still required to self-isolate for 10 days, according to Shahab.
The changes to self-isolation requirements do not apply to close contacts. People who are fully vaccinated should self-monitor for 14 days if they are deemed a close contact. Those who are unvaccinated must self isolate for 14 days from the time of their last exposure.
Shahab said he is looking at emerging data related to close contacts, adding those requirements could change in the future.
Most Omicron cases are in people ages 20 to 39, Shahab said, and no one has been hospitalized in the province due to the variant.
The official opposition said rapid tests and booster doses are “helpful tools” in the fight against Omicron. However, NDP leader Ryan Meili says the province’s low vaccination rates put Saskatchewan at a greater risk.
Meili said the provincial government is “taking steps backwards” when it comes to isolation requirements, adding gathering limits should have been introduced two weeks ago.
“We have no real public health orders in place to prevent the spread of Omicron. It is spreading quickly,” Meili said.
“Omicron hits unvaccinated people much harder than those who’ve had two or ideally three shots.”