The arrival of the COVID-19 variant in Saskatchewan paired with record high hospitalization numbers is causing concern for the Saskatchewan Union of Nurses (SUN).
"It’s extremely important that we’re able to track to understand where the variant is and the potential for community spread," SUN President Tracy Zambory said.
There are more COVID-19 patients in hospital in the province this week than at any point during the pandemic.
"I am hearing from some of my colleagues and other healthcare professionals in the hospital setting that it is really straining the system," Dr. Dennis Kendel, a health policy consultant, told CTV News.
On Tuesday, Saskatchewan reported 194 people were being treated for COVID-19 in hospitals, however, on Thursday, the Government issued a correction stating, "On-going hospitalization data validation," led to the under-reporting.
The Ministry of Health declined to comment further on the under-reported hospitalization numbers.
With all contagious and non-contagious patients being counted, there was a record-high 238 people in hospital on Tuesday.
As of Friday, there are 224 people receiving impatient and ICU care, the third highest total of the pandemic.
"It’s important that we’re transparent in all of these reportings so that people understand exactly where we’re at in this province with COVID and how important it is that they continue to follow the rules," Zambory said.
The high hospitalization numbers become more concerning with the first three cases of the U.K. variant being discovered in Saskatchewan.
SUN is calling on the government to increase testing capacity for the variants here rather than waiting weeks for results from the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg.
It would also like to see the government implement stronger measures to contain any potential spread of the variant, such as closing bars.
"We need to be able to keep the people of this province safe and now we know these variants are here and we know the high contagion that they have," Zambory said.
"When it takes two weeks to know there is a person with the variant virus in the community, that’s quite a long lag time," added Dr. Kendel.
The province said on Tuesday it will consider additional measures when the current ones expire on Feb. 19.
According to Dr. Kendel, evidence suggests the U.K. variant can be transmitted in about one or two minutes of contact.
"Previously the standard concept used to be 15 minutes constituted a contact, so the increased transmissibility is the greatest concern," Dr. Kendel said.
SUN urges Saskatchewan residents to follow public health measures, saying it’s more important now than ever and also encourages anyone offered a vaccine dose to take it.