Health Minister confident in province’s ability to deal with COVID-19

Saskatchewan Health Minister Jim Reiter weighed in on the province’s first case of COVID-19, at a press conference Thursday.

Reiter says that the province has been planning for the arrival of COVID-19 in Saskatchewan for a long time and now that the province has a case, the planning hasn’t changed.

“Our officials have been treating this very seriously all along,” said Reiter. “The expectation was that, sooner or later, we were going to have a case, and likely more cases. They’ve been working diligently on that.”

Reiter added that whatever resources are needed to help contain the province, the government will provide.

According to Reiter, the province hasn’t received specific numbers on how much money will be coming to the province after Prime Minister Trudeau announced a $1 billion contingency plan to help battle COVID-19.

Due to overwhelming amounts of calls to the province’s Healthline, the service has been backed up, resulting in wait times of over 20 minutes.

Reiter says he is concerned about the backlog and has asked the Saskatchewan Health Authority to provide an action plan to ease the access to Healthline.

“Obviously 811 is going to play a huge role in this moving forward, and we need to ensure that it’s operating adequately,” said Reiter. “At the same time, we’ve had reports of people saying, ‘well I phoned in to test’. That’s not an appropriate use of that resource at all, we’re asking people to please use it when necessary.”

Reiter added that he is concerned about the spread of COVID-19 in the province but is incredibly confident in the system’s ability to contain the virus.

“I’m obviously very concerned, but I have a great deal of confidence in our officials,” said Reiter. “You’ve seen the good work they’ve done already, and I have no reason to believe that’ll change.”

Due to the recent concern over COVID-19, Premier Scott Moe decided Thursday that he would not call an early election.

Minister Reiter says that the Premier made the right call.

“The Premier is always going to put the safety and security of Saskatchewan residents first,” said Reiter. “In light of everything that has happened in the last 24 hours, he felt it was appropriate to put all alarm aside and just let people know that he didn’t think this was an appropriate time, and he wouldn’t be exercising the early window.”

285 people in Saskatchewan have been tested for COVID-19, only one test has come back positive. 22 tests are pending.

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