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'Hunker down': Sask. top doc warns against non-essential contact amid Omicron COVID-19 surge

Saskatoon -

While Saskatchewan has not followed other provinces in tightening COVID-19 measures to limit the spread of Omicron, its top doctor has issued a stern recommendation against unnecessary contacts during the current surge in coronavirus cases.

"I think the choice is becoming very stark, Omicron transmission is rising exponentially," Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab said during an update on Thursday.

"We really need to hunker down and only do what is essential and minimize other non-essential contacts for the next, I would say two to four weeks at least," Shahab said.

Shahab said Saskatoon in particular is seeing seeing "quite a surge and Omicron transmission in the community."

There were 1,790 reported active cases in the Saskatoon region as of Thursday afternoon — a number that does not include cases self-diagnosed through at-home rapid tests.

The Regina reporting area had the second-highest number of reported active cases, sitting at 1,422.

The chief medical health officer told reporters that a single "large transmission event" can easily generate hundreds of cases which can lead to thousands of cases in a week.

"It's I think, a phase where it is not just hospitalization, that is going to be the biggest challenge," Shahab said.

"In all sectors, essential, non-essential small businesses, large workplaces, you know, keeping the work going, is going to be a challenge."

Shahab said wearing the best mask available and getting a COVID-19 booster are key to preventing Omicron spread in workplaces and schools.

"Obviously, we have to go to work. The risks in the work setting have to be managed by the occupational health and safety teams, which includes cohorting of staff and units. If it's shift work, you know, making sure that shift people in different shifts don't overlap," Shahab said.

Shahab recommended against non-essential travel between communities in the province, to prevent a simultaneous surge in cases and to keep overall numbers down.

He said the Omicron variant is five to eight times more transmissible than the delta variant, adding "Omicron is less severe, (but) by no means is it something we should disregard."

The top doctor emphasized it's ultimately up to the province to decide if additional health measures are required.

"The government has historically relied on the people of Saskatchewan to actually change behaviour and do the right thing," Shahab said.

"It would be up to government to decide whether that is sufficient or whether further measures through public health orders are required"​

If there are gatherings taking place, such as weddings or funerals, Shahab asks it happen safely with attendees rapid testing before arriving and having everyone wear a mask throughout the event. Top Stories

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