REGINA — Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe says it's too early to say whether COVID-19 restrictions will be loosened in time to allow families to gather for the holidays.
Moe said residents can expect to see high COVID-19 case numbers for the next few weeks, as officials wait to see if the latest public-health measures have been effective.
The province reported 325 new infections on Monday and said there are 123 people in hospital, 23 of whom are receiving intensive care.
The premier noted that the new rules, which include suspending all team sports and a 30-person cap on indoor venues such as churches and bingo halls, have only been in place for a few days.
The restrictions are to continue until Dec. 17, when the premier said his Saskatchewan Party government and the chief medical health officer will decide what to do next.
Moe said they could choose to extend existing measures, bring in added ones or loosen the restriction that limits household gatherings "just a little bit so that we can have a few people in our home for Christmas." The limit now is five people.
"It's too early for us to say which of those three options would occur," Moe said.
"We need a little bit of time. We've had three, four days since these … additional measures have come into play, and we need to have a few days to see if they're actually going to make any impact on the numbers that we have."
Moe wouldn't say how long his government will wait to see if the restrictions plateau the number of new infections.
"We're continuously adjusting and finding that balance of what we need to do and what we have to do," said Health Minister Paul Merrimen.
"We're looking at what we have to do with our hospitals to be able to adjust to the influx of patients … we're making adjustments in rural Saskatchewan to see if we can cover off nurses who have become sick."
Merriman said the government's response to COVID-19 is a balancing act that juggles the needs of the health-care system with the economy and people's mental health.
Opposition NDP Leader Ryan Meili said the novel coronavirus doesn't care about the holidays and Moe is playing politics by suggesting more people might be able to gather at Christmas.
"We're not going to see my folks at Christmas. Most families aren't and that's the wise thing to do. I hope that the premier is going to make sure that any decision he makes is based on the data," said Meili.
"The only thing that matters is whether those (case) numbers have come down. We aren't seeing that now. We'll see what happens in the weeks ahead."
Meili said if Moe's government was serious about curbing community transmission of COVID-19 in time for Christmas, he should have closed down non-essential businesses several weeks ago to give the health system a break.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 30, 2020.