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Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe says all eligible residents over the age of 18 can get a third dose of vaccine starting Monday. The province has also reduced the time between the second and third doses to three months from five.Liam Richards/The Canadian Press

Saskatchewan is opening up COVID-19 booster shots to more of its population as concerns over the transmissibility of the Omicron variant grow.

Premier Scott Moe says all eligible residents over the age of 18 can get a third dose of vaccine starting Monday.

The province has also reduced the time between the second and third doses to three months from five.

“Our shortening of that time frame is essential to ensure there are more people eligible in a shorter period of time,” Mr. Moe said Thursday.

Saskatchewan has 400,000 booster doses available and more are to arrive from the federal government in the weeks ahead.

On Tuesday, Mr. Moe was on a first ministers conference call which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arranged to address Omicron’s arrival in Canada.

“There’s urging from the federal government for us to do everything we can to make these booster doses available to as many people as possible,” Mr. Moe said.

“I do enough judgment … on federal government decisions. This is a time for us to come together across this nation. We have a significant challenge in front of us yet again after 21 months.”

Saskatchewan has five confirmed Omicron cases. They are linked to international travellers who are quarantining.

Mr. Moe said there is no evidence of community transmission, but he added that the public should assume Omicron is present in every Saskatchewan community. The Saskatchewan Health Authority says all positive PCR tests in the province are being sequenced for the Omicron variant.

At this time, the government is not considering bringing in measures on gathering sizes or other restrictions.

A mask mandate and vaccine passports to prove vaccination are to remain in effect until at least the end of January.

“The booster dose of vaccine is very, very effective, likely the most effective thing we can do in preparing for Omicron to be present in our communities, which it most assuredly will be in the weeks and months ahead,” Mr. Moe said.

He’s also encouraging residents to use rapid-test kits before gathering over the Christmas holidays.

Since October, more than eight million kits have been distributed to pickup centres, including pharmacies, schools and chamber of commerce offices.

Mr. Moe said the province has a standing order with Ottawa to receive four million tests a month in the foreseeable future.

Testing “needs to be more normalized in the weeks and months ahead.”

Mr. Moe said that before Thursday’s in-person news conference, he used a rapid-test because he had had a busy week and is also returning to his home in Shellbrook, Sask., for Christmas. He encouraged the public to use a kit before entering new environments.

“I would like nothing more to never talk about COVID again, but I also know that we’re being faced with yet another challenge here,” he said.

“I just once again would say that Saskatchewan people are much stronger than this virus and we are going to find our way through it.”

This content appears as provided to The Globe by the originating wire service. It has not been edited by Globe staff.