The number of cases of COVID-19 in Saskatchewan has risen to 20, an increase of four from March 18.
Eight of those have been confirmed at the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg and 12 are presumptive positive.
Three of the four new cases are related to travel, according to the government, and one is a close contact to a previously reported case.
Nineteen of the cases are in self-isolation at home.
Yesterday the government prohibited gatherings larger than 50 people, closed gyms, fitness centres, casinos and bingo halls, and limited all restaurants to 50 percent of capacity or up to 50 people, whichever is less.
Grocery stores, pharmacies and gas stations are exempt but must have a way to maintain separation between customers of one to two metres.
The government has also introduced amendments to the Saskatchewan Employment Act to remove the requirement for a doctor’s note to obtain leave.
“Requesting written verification from physicians or HealthLine 811 is unnecessary and prevents these resources from being properly utilized at this time,” said a government news release.
The province invoked a state of emergency March 18. That is in effect for 14 days and likely to be renewed.
.@SaskHealth will continue to provide services to patients who require emergent and urgent care. Cancer, urgent and emergent surgeries will continue as planned. Patients will be contacted regarding their scheduled service. #COVID19SK pic.twitter.com/lAFfWXFiS7
— Government of Saskatchewan (@SKGov) March 19, 2020
Premier Scott Moe reminded people that hoarding food and supplies is not necessary and is creating hardships for others. Buy what you need and not more, he said.
“We will get through this together,” he said, while encouraging everyone to take their personal responsibility seriously.
Moe said he knows it is counterintuitive for Saskatchewan residents to not want to go out and help others by pulling together.
“Today, pulling together means staying apart,” he said.
Chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab said there is no particular reason that 50 has been set as the gathering limit and he is limiting himself to four or five people.
“That’s my comfort level right now,” he said.
Asked about shortages of some medical supplies such as swabs to do the testing, health minister Jim Reiter said supplies at the moment are adequate but more have been ordered.
Officials are adamant that anyone who has returned from travel outside Canada must self-isolate for 14 days. This also includes people who have been in close contact with an infected person and for those who are positive but well enough to stay home.
If someone in a household is positive, other people should try to stay as far from that person as possible, including separate sleeping quarters and bathrooms if possible.