Coronavirus: Saskatchewan predicts Prince Albert outbreak to spread north


Saskatchewan’s chief medical officer of health said the province is working quickly to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus following an outbreak at a place of worship in Prince Albert.”The decisions we all make now will have an impact on the actions that public health will need to take in the weeks to come,” Dr Saqib Shahab said on Thursday during the province’s COVID-19 update.

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Health officials are asking everyone who attended Full Gospel awareness events in Prince Albert between September 14 and October 4 to self-isolate for 14 days. Those with symptoms are advised to get tested.

Shahab says 11 cases are currently linked to the outbreak, six of which have been confirmed while the other five remain under investigation.

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Public health officials in Alberta and Manitoba have also been alerted to the outbreak as gospel events have drawn residents from out of the province.

Shahab said the outbreak “is of particular concern” as contagion is likely to spread to rural northern Saskatchewan, an area that was hit hard by the virus in the spring.

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“As a result, we are likely to see cases of COVID-19 in communities in the north and the far north,” Shahab said.

Multi-jurisdictional coronavirus outbreak declared in Saskatchewan

Multi-jurisdictional coronavirus outbreak declared in Saskatchewan

He added that to stop the chain of transmission, it is essential that all participants isolate themselves.

This includes people who weren’t wearing masks, didn’t stick to their home or bubble, and those who shared food or drink, the Saskatchewan Health Authority said.

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Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation took COVID-19 protocols even further by putting in place a lockdown after the outbreak linked to the evangelical event.

As part of the lockdown, all vehicles entering PBCN communities will be searched and no parties will be allowed.

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Community lockdown declared in Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation to stop COVID-19

Currently, no fines have been imposed on the organizers of the evangelistic event for allegedly violating COVID-19 protocols.

“Our first priority with the event is to make sure we can contact everyone who attended,” Shahab said.

COVID-19 guidelines have been imposed on places of worship since March. This is the first outbreak declared in a place of worship.

“In general, they were very diligent and conscientious in promoting virtual services where appropriate, having physical distances, using masks and refraining from singing, especially when the number of cases was high”, Shahab said.

“There have been sporadic cases, maybe one or two transmissions related to places of worship. It is certainly a reminder to all of us that the only way to get to places of worship safely is to follow directions.

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Multi-jurisdictional coronavirus outbreak declared in Saskatchewan

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The SHA declared the multi-jurisdictional epidemic on Wednesday, as it involved many people with close contacts in multiple areas of the province.

Doug Dahl, a spokesperson for health authorities, said people from several communities have been identified as close contacts with the six positive cases, including some First Nations.

“We expect the number of cases to increase and increase,” Shahab said.

– With files from David Giles and Katelyn Wilson.

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