Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe says he’s confident in his government’s plan to relax some restrictions around COVID-19 starting next month, despite two outbreaks of the illness and another death.
Health officials reported the province’s sixth death Wednesday of a person in their 80s at a long-term care facility in La Loche, a remote village 600 kilometres northwest of Saskatoon that is at the centre of a cluster of cases in the region.
Lloydminster, a city on the Saskatchewan-Alberta boundary, is also dealing with an outbreak of 13 cases tied to its hospital, where there has been transmission in both patients and staff.
The hospital has workers and patients from both provinces.
“Despite these two isolated outbreaks, we’re confident that by and large Saskatchewan is doing very well,” Moe told a press conference.
“This is very different than if we had an increasing of 10 to 17 (cases) and then maybe continue going across the province and we were unaware of exactly where those sources were.”
The province also reported 17 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, bringing its total number of cases to 383; 291 people having recovered.
The first stage of the province’s plan to relax restrictions is to take effect Monday, when medical services like dental offices can begin seeing more patients.
Moe said because of the outbreaks, the first stage of the plan won’t apply to Lloydminster and La Loche.
He said he has asked for more testing to be done in and around La Loche and the health authority is in process of deploying up to 100 new staff to do the testing and contact tracing.
The minister of government relations was also set to speak with northern and Indigenous leaders Wednesday about what longer term travel restrictions could look like for the region.
Last week, Moe announced travel was being restricted to the far north and was not recommended between communities there.
“(Restrictions) very well may relax in some areas where we do not have a large number of positive cases at this point in time,” the premier said. “But they very well may be enhanced in some areas in and around the La Loche area.”
The Saskatchewan Health Authority also said an employee at the Beauval General Store, south of La Loche, has tested positive for COVID-19. It said customers who stopped there over the last two weeks should isolate.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 29, 2020
Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press