With COVID-19 levels still high in Saskatchewan, the province has announced several more health measures to curb the spread of the virus.
Premier Scott Moe (appearing by video while in isolation) and chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab announced the measures Wednesday, which take effect at 12:01 a.m. Friday, Nov. 27 and remain in effect until Dec. 17, the same date as other earlier measures that were announced last week. They will then be reviewed at that time.
The measures, as outlined in a news release from the province issued Wednesday afternoon, include the following:
All indoor public gatherings are limited to 30 people. This includes all types of social gatherings public banquets, conferences, wedding and funeral receptions in public venues. All places of worship must also reduce capacity to 30 people, including wedding, funeral and baptismal services. No food or beverages may be present or served.
Capacity is restricted to 30 people at all casinos, bingo halls, arenas, live theatres, movie theatres, performing arts venues and any other facilities that are currently supporting a capacity of 150 people.
The maximum allowable gathering size in the home setting remains at five. Gatherings beyond your immediate household are strongly discouraged.
All restaurants and bars, taverns, nightclubs are limited to seat four at a single table. There must be a three metre distance between tables but if there are impermeable barriers between the tables, tables can be placed two metres apart.
All team sports are suspended including amateur and recreational leagues for all age groups to Dec. 17. It includes hockey, curling, racquet sports, cheerleading, dance practices in group setting, and so on.
However, athletes under age 18 may be permitted to continue practising in groups of eight or fewer.
Mandatory, non-medical mask use will be required during all indoor fitness activities, aquatic activities being the only exception. Fitness activities and classes are limited to no more than eight people.
All students, employees and visitors in all schools and day cares are now required to wear masks except while eating or drinking. Mask use is required in all common areas in businesses and workplaces.
Large retail locations are required to limit customer access to 50 per cent capacity or four square metres of space per person, whichever is less.
All the new protocols can be found in the Re-Open Saskatchewan plan on the province’s website.
In announcing the new measures Premier Moe noted they were trying to find a balance between protecting people from the virus while not shutting down the economy.
“Our goal is to find the right balance on behalf of people of this province to protect Saskatchewan people from the spread of COVID-19 while at the same time protecting Saskatchewan people’s jobs and their livelihoods. Our goal is to not shut down businesses, services and activities that ultimately put people out of work, at times may threaten their mental health. Our goal is to find ways for those things to operate and to do so safely so that people can continue to participate in athletics and continue work, while at the same time continue to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in our communities.”
As for why the measures were announced, Moe said the reality is the virus is “in our communities and is spreading in a number of different places, inside and outside our homes.”
Dr. Shahab noted the measures put in place previously had had an impact, but not a sufficient impact to bring the case numbers down. As for where people are getting exposed, he said recreational facilities and sports facilities "stand out significantly" and were also the primary source of importation of cases into schools.
Moe concerned about vaccine access
At the news conference, Premier Moe also expressed concern about Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's comments "that Canada may be at the back of the line when receiving a vaccine."
"This is quite the opposite of the assurances the Prime Minister has been providing us Canadians for a number of weeks and even a month or two now."
He said the comments "raise serious contracts about the contracts" the federal government made with vaccine suppliers. He said health minister Paul Merriman asked questions of the Prime Minister the previous day without any answers.
"We will continue to press the Prime Minister and the federal government to provide greater clarity and to do our part to ensure that all Canadians including those in Saskatchewan have access to a safe effective vaccine and to have access to one in a timely manner."