The phrase "variant of concern" refers to a new virus variant that has one or more mutations that differentiate it from the predominant virus already circulating among the general population. As expected, multiple variants of SARS-CoV-2 have been documented globally throughout this pandemic. To inform local outbreak investigations and understand the national picture, scientists compare genetic differences among viruses to identify variants and how closely they are related to each other.
The Government of Saskatchewan has been actively monitoring for variants using whole genome sequencing. The Roy Romanow Provincial Laboratory (RRPL) has completed the validation process in order to support whole genome sequencing. This test determines if a positive COVID-19 case is a variant of concern, as well as what type of variant.
In order to monitor for variants of concern, the RRPL will continue to focus whole genome sequencing testing on COVID positive results linked to international travel, declared outbreaks and cases of unexpected severe illness, as well as a random sampling of confirmed cases.
The province will also continue to send samples to the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg to ensure a larger sample size.
The best protection against all COVID-19 variants remains the same as protection against COVID-19: stay home, physically distance, wash your hands frequently, wear a mask and get tested if you are experiencing even mild symptoms. To date, there is no conclusive evidence indicating that the available Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines are less effective against variants of concern.
For updated information about COVID-19, please continue to visit the COVID-19 section. The website provides detailed information for Saskatchewan residents, health care workers, schools and workplaces. It outlines government's vaccine rollout phases, and provides guidance on infection prevention, self-isolation/self-monitoring, mass gatherings and travel. This information is subject to change as public health officials continue to reassess the national and provincial public health risks, based on the best available evidence. Any new measures and information on COVID-19 will be continually updated on the website.
For the most current information and updates regarding actions and measures taken by the Government of Canada, please visit www.canada.ca/covid-19.