The largest increase in new COVID-19 cases was reported Monday with 34, with 29 of those being in the La Loche region.

As of late Monday morning, 76 of the 98 active cases are in the Far North, representing 60 percent of the active cases in the province.

Health officials had warned that there would be an increase in cases in the Far North, with more aggressive testing.

19 teams of health professionals were deployed to La Loche this weekend, to conduct drive-thru, mobile and door-to-door testing, as a way to getting ahead of the virus.

A rapid testing machine is identifying presumptive cases faster. Sask. Health Authority CEO Scott Livingstone said testing in La Loche will focus on those contacted and of households.

“I don’t think it should be unexpected that we may see some relatively large numbers throughout that area, for a number of reasons. One, we’re going back about two weeks when the infection first started. And when physical distancing wasn’t a priority in those communities that it is today. Two, we’re testing more in those areas,” Premier Scott Moe said.

16 people in the Far North have recovered from the virus.

Beauval, including the communities of Jans Bay, Ile a la Crosse and Buffalo Narrows has nine cases, stemming from a positive infection at the grocery store.

Livingstone assures that there are no barriers to testing in any of those communities, insisting that on-site and drive-thru testing are available.

As the province embarks on Day 1 of eased economic restrictions with the opening of some private health care facilities, the COVID-19 outbreaks in La Loche and Lloydminster is delaying the reopening in those communities.

Yet despite the significant increase of new cases Monday, Moe is defending his government’s response to the pandemic in the North.

“Have we failed in any way? Most certainly not,” Moe explained, adding that his government has been working with northern leaders to help fight the Coronavirus.

Moe said the government will be much more active in La Loche, bringing in more isolation units and preparing available government housing.

He said conservation officers and fire suppression staff will be tasked to operate checkpoints in the North, hoping these measures in the next few weeks will flatten the curve in the northwest.