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Within days of Saskatchewan lifting its ban on household guests, health officials are urging older Regina residents to stay home as they watch to see if more measures are needed to deal with a rise in COVID-19 variant cases.

Another 77 presumed infections of more contagious COVID-19 variants were announced Friday in the city.

There have already been 70 infectious variants confirmed in Saskatchewan, most of them the strain first detected in the United Kingdom.

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To date, nearly all of these cases have been found in and around Regina. However, a provincial lab didn’t confirm many of them until this past week after analyzing positive case samples over the past two months.

“Public health will be closely monitoring the situation regarding transmission for the next two to three days and will (be) taking additional public health measures if the numbers of confirmed positive cases of variants of concern do not start to decline,” the Ministry of Health said in a release.

Health officials have urged Regina residents 50 and older not to take advantage of a loosened restriction that allows households to have guests.

City residents are also being asked to limit their shopping to essential items and to seek testing even with mild symptoms.

The province reported 176 new COVID-19 infections Friday, along with three additional deaths. The Regina area has 471 of Saskatchewan’s 1,437 active infections.

Starting Monday, people who are 64 years old can line up to get immunized against COVID-19 at the first vaccination drive-thru clinic in Regina.

The Saskatchewan Health Authority says shots will be given on a first-come, first-served basis, and the clinic will be open for about 12 hours.

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Some health-care workers will be able to access the drive-thru for a shot on Sunday.

Health officials say doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine will be used.

A long-term care home in Regina said Friday that public health officials have declared an outbreak of COVID-19 there. An Extendicare spokeswoman said as of Tuesday, four residents and two staff members had tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

Laura Gallant said 95 per cent of Elmview residents have received the two required doses of vaccine. She said she couldn’t reveal if the four who became ill were immunized due to privacy rules.

“COVID-19 vaccines are a powerful tool to strengthen our defence against the virus,” she wrote in a statement to The Canadian Press.

“Until mass vaccination is completed and broader immunity is achieved in the community, the virus will continue to circulate and potentially enter homes. We must remain vigilant and use every available precaution to prevent the virus from reaching residents.”

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Gallant noted almost 90 per cent of the care home’s staff have been given one shot, and about half have received both.

For weeks, COVID-19 rapid testing has been used on anyone entering the home, and all residents and staff are being tested, she said.

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