Despite a drop in new cases on Tuesday, Saskatchewan’s rate of active COVID-19 cases is now the highest in the country.
According to data from Health Canada, Saskatchewan had an active case rate of 319 per 100,000 population on Tuesday, an increase of one from the day before.
While Alberta was previously tied with Saskatchewan, its active case rate has dropped to 302.
The national average rate currently sits at 215.
Provincial Health Minister Paul Merriman said Wednesday that Saskatchewan will stick to its current restrictions for the time being.
While he acknowledged that cases had recently spiked, Merriman said he expected to see an increase after the holidays and thinks numbers will begin to shrink.
“We’re hopefully past that now,” he said.
“Two weeks after Christmas and New Year’s has now passed and our measures will continue to work like they did before.”
Before Christmas, the province saw a drop in new cases. For example, on Dec. 23, the total recorded number of new cases in the province was down to 159, roughly half of the new cases seen this week.
Merriman is convinced that once the Christmas-related spike in cases is over, new provincial cases will settle down into similar numbers.
“I think people understand the importance of the measures,” he said.
“We’ve been able to find that balance between restrictions and allowing people to live out their lives and be able to go to work and do what they would do back in December.”
On Tuesday, the provincial government extended its current COVID-19 public health orders to at least Jan. 29.
The orders mean only immediate household members can gather indoors, although groups of up to 10 people are still allowed outdoors provided physical distancing can be maintained.
Mandatory masking is still in effect, as are restrictions on sports, fitness, dance and places of worship.
Merriman said if the situation continues to stay around 300 new cases per day for an extended period of time, those restrictions will have to be revised.
“If they don’t improve, then we’re going to have to sit down with Dr Shahab and see what it is that we need to be doing, where those specific transmissions are happening and what we need to do to make sure that those transmissions are minimised.”
At a news conference on Tuesday, chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab said that the next three months will be critical.
Dr. Shahab urged everyone in the province to follow the provincial restrictions.
He said the high active case counts will mean more hospitalizations and ICU visits a week from now.