SASKATOON -- As the province declared a state of emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) moved to limit non-urgent medical care to free up staff and medical supplies to fight the spread of the virus.

Starting March 23, the SHA will limit elective surgeries, procedures and diagnostics while still providing urgent care to patients where required.

Cancer-related and urgent surgeries will continue as scheduled, the province said in a news release.

Patients will be contacted regarding the scheduling of procedures.

The SHA also put strict visitor restrictions in place at its health facilities earlier this week.

Visitors are no longer permitted except for compassionate reasons such as end-of-life care, being present prior to major surgery or helping with clinical care.