Federal government prepared to help Saskatchewan battle COVID-19 fourth wave


REGINA —
The federal government is prepared to help Saskatchewan battle its fourth wave of COVID-19.

In a tweet on Friday, the federal health minister Patty Hajdu confirmed she spoke with provincial health minister Paul Merriman and “ensured he knows the federal government will be there to help the people of Saskatchewan in this health crisis.”

“We stand ready to help wherever we are needed,” the tweet read.

While the federal government is ready to help, Hajdu reminded Merriman it takes time to deploy these resources, and that equipment is easier to ship out than healthcare workers.

“It depends on the resourcing needs of Saskatchewan, which is why it’s so critical that the province be looking ahead to what they anticipate they’ll need as they try to deal with the surge,” said Hajdu in a phone interview.

She said the province has yet to make any official requests.

Merriman’s office did not respond to an interview request, and the health minister last took open questions from the media one month ago.

CTV News did obtain a letter from the minister to Hajdu.

“I want to thank you for extending the offer that you have made in terms of federal assistance if the province of Saskatchewan requires it,” reads the letter from Merriman.

“At this time, we have expanded the capacity in our acute and intensive care units in order to address pressures we are experiencing, and we will to continue to use the federal resources that have always been in place to complement those efforts.”

Merriman did, however, request expedited approval for rapid tests and distribution of antibody therapies.

 The offer from Ottawa comes as Saskatchewan continues to break COVID-19 records. On Sunday the province recorded more than 550 new cases, its highest new daily case count since the start of the pandemic. Those cases pushed the province to an all-time high of 4,864 active cases.

Dr. Alex Wong, an infectious disease specialist, said this wave feels different than others.

“People are just so sad and regretful they’re asking for the vaccine, they’re begging for the vaccine,” said Wong.

Wong said the next two weeks will be critical in determining where the curve is headed, adding the biggest challenge will be healthcare staffing. He agreed with the federal minister that a proactive approach to securing resources is the way to go.

“In no way shape or form do I think we’re even close to getting out of this,” Wong said.

“We need to have some consistent messaging in place about where we’re at right now and how dire the situation is.”

Wong is calling on the province to introduce short, immediate measures to cut down transmission. He said those calls don’t include lockdowns, but rather limits on gathering sizes and expanding contact tracing.

The official opposition has previously called on Premier Scott Moe to formally ask Ottawa for help.

The NDP says it’s time for the province to consider bringing in the Canadian military to help in many ways like contact tracing, testing and on the frontlines.

Last Wednesday, the province said it is in regular contact with the federal government about the pandemic response. While it has asked for additional rapid test kits, there have been no other requests for federal support.​





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