Meili calls for more action from provincial gov’t in fight against COVID-19 variants

“Fix testing now to fight COVID-19 variants” is the message from Saskatchewan NDP Leader Ryan Meili to the provincial government Thursday.

The Official Opposition suggested that the government needs to take serious action to detect and prevent the spread of the new COVID-19 variants that have arrived in the province. Meili has called for the following actions from the government:

  • Use a portion of the province’s $260 million contingency fund to staff up laboratory services and testing and tracing;
  • Proactive rapid testing in schools, long-term care facilities, high-risk communities, and workplaces where social distancing measures are difficult to implement;
  • Strengthened case management and contact tracing; and
  • A clear vaccine sequencing plan and schedule to end the confusion about where people are in the queue and how they will find out when it is their turn to be vaccinated.

Tuesday saw Saskatchewan record its first confirmed cases of the UK COVID-19 variant with two in Regina, and the Saskatoon zone reported a third case of the UK variant on Thursday.

Meili said on Thursday it’s now a race between vaccines and variants in this province.

“These variants are starting to spread or more can be created during a time when we allow the virus to do what it’s doing in Saskatchewan right now, which it’s running rampant,” explained the NDP leader. “It’s going to take more lives before vaccines come and there’s a great risk of it getting much worse with the variants arriving.”

Meili continued to say Saskatchewan is ill-equipped to manage escalating risks from COVID-19 variants due to a lack of preparation for the second wave of the pandemic from the Sask. Party government. He mentioned how the province has both the equipment and capacity to do in-province COVID-19 variant sequencing according to members of the Saskatchewan Health Authority, yet test samples are being sent to Winnipeg because there are not enough staff.

The NDP shared in a statement on Thursday that the government has not followed through on reports of short-staffing and supply issues of medical laboratory technologists since 2016 and presided over a declining number of MLTs since 2014.

He said this leaves residents vulnerable to dangerous and more transmissible variants.

“We absolutely cannot relax and assume vaccines are going to get here in time,” stated Meili. “We need to protect people, which means we need to tell the whole story.”

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