'Sask. is on the cusp of having a huge problem': As variants climb, microbiologist says it's time for stricter COVID-19 rules
SASKATOON -- A Saskatoon microbiologist is calling on health officials to better prepare for the future of COVID-19.
Andrew Potter is a microbiology professor at the University of Saskatchewan and former director of the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO). His expertise focuses on bacterial pathogens and vaccinology.
"Saskatchewan is on the cusp of having a huge problem," Potter says, pointing to the ICU capacity and rising variants of the virus.
Potter says there’s time to get things under control, but health officials need to be proactive.
"When you look at pandemics, really you want to be proactive — looking into the future and trying to predict what's going to happen, and designing intervention strategies to mitigate that risk. And that’s not what I’m seeing in Saskatchewan."
He says the province is better off to lock down short-term, rather than constantly tweak restrictions.
During a news conference on Thursday, Saskatoon Mayor Charlie Clark called on people in the city to exceed the current provincial public health order.
"I am asking residents to go above and beyond the restrictions for these next weeks ahead. It's simply a time to be careful with everything you do," Clark said.
The city's emergency management director echoed Clark's recommendation.
"The public health orders are just very bare minimum requirements. So just because you can do something under the Public Health order doesn't mean that was the right time to do it," Pamela Goulden-McLeod said.
In response to the rise in COVID-19 variant cases, the province tightened public health measures earlier this week, restricting any private gatherings where households would mix.
"Even though our vaccination program is working successfully we still need to pay attention to COVID and our rising case numbers," Dr. Saqib Shahab, the province's Chief Medical Health Officer, said when the move was announced on Tuesday.
"We do have to stick to our own household indoors and that's what worked well for us in December, and we really have to go back to that," Shahab said.
According to the government, the measures will be reviewed on April 26.