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COVID-19 testing drops as Saskatchewan prepares to announce its reopening plan

REGINA — The number COVID-19 tests being done in Saskatchewan has dropped off as the province's premier prepares to release a plan for how to reopen parts of the economy.

REGINA — The number COVID-19 tests being done in Saskatchewan has dropped off as the province's premier prepares to release a plan for how to reopen parts of the economy.

Reports released by health officials show the number of people who have been tested each day since early March.

One chart shows those tested dropped to 399 as of Monday from 885 on Friday.

The head of the Saskatchewan Health Authority, Scott Livingstone, said it has the capacity to do more than the 1,500 tests per day that Premier Scott Moe has set as a target by the end of the month. So far, there has only been one day when a little more than 1,000 people were tested.

"We're just not seeing people show up with symptoms of COVID-19," Livingstone told a news conference Tuesday.

"We're also seeing in some cases a drop in the number of calls to 811 in other areas. That doesn't mean we don't have the ability to test more. We're just not seeing those patients."

Heath officials said reasons for the drop include lower rates of transmission and the end of the influenza season.

"Because of that decreasing circulation of respiratory viruses, people are probably less likely to be interested in being tested," said Dr. Julie Kryzanowski, senior medical health officer with the health authority.

To date, the province has performed more than 24,000 tests for COVID-19. On Tuesday, it announced four new cases, bringing the total number of confirmed infections to 320.

The health authority said it's working on a strategy to expand testing beyond people with symptoms and those who have been in contact with the virus.

Kryzanowski said officials are exploring the use of home-care and outreach workers to test people in their homes.

On Wednesday night, Moe is to deliver a televised address to the province, a first for a Saskatchewan Party premier.

He's expected to highlight how residents have managed to slow the spread of the virus so far, while also emphasizing the need to show continued vigilance.

On Thursday, the premier is to release the province's plan for how some businesses and services can start operating again during the pandemic.

Livingstone said testing and contact tracing will be key as restrictions are lifted.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 21, 2020.

Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press