With the recent rally in Regina and those planned for other Saskatchewan communities, Saskatchewan’s Chief Medical Health Officer, Dr. Saqib Shahab is warning that these types of large public gatherings dramatically increase the risk of COVID transmission and put you, your loved ones and the community at risk.
While Saskatchewan’s number of confirmed positive COVID-19 cases is low, it is critically important to understand that as many as 40 per cent of persons who are capable of being infectious with COVID 19 may have no or very mild symptoms.
People attending large public rallies are putting themselves and others at increased risk of infection. Not knowing who they may have been in contact with will make contact tracing and public health follow up difficult. As a result, individuals may not have timely warning of potential exposure by public health.
This in turn will put members of extended household contacts at risk. Several outbreaks, both large and small, have been linked to large gatherings here in Saskatchewan and around the world. Any gathering with more than 10 people outdoors are in violation of the current Public Health Order.
On June 8, the allowed size limit for outdoor gatherings will be raised to 30. Regardless of the gathering size, two metres of separation is to be maintained at all times.
Organizers are encouraged to have gatherings done in vehicles. If groups are wanting to congregate or march on foot, they are advised to keep a distance of two metres or more between each person at all times. Groups are encouraged to treat marching and protesting as though they are visiting a large urban park where 100s of people may be at any given time across a wide space, but promote safety by maintaining the two metres or more of physical distancing.
Mask use and frequent hand hygiene is encouraged. Items must not be shared or passed back and forth among participants. In situations where singing or chanting is happening it is recommended that the physical distancing be expanded beyond the recommended two metres as this behaviour expels the virus at a greater velocity and distance. Consider using signs or banners instead.
Organizers of any protests or rallies are encouraged to contact local public health offices for guidance. All groups or individuals contemplating participation in protests or marches should consult information on public health orders and gathering size limitations at https://www.saskatchewan.ca/coronavirus#utm_campaign=q2_2015&utm_medium=short&utm_source=%2Fcoronavirus.
The risks and public health violations apply to all large gatherings. While peaceful public protests are a part of our democracy, please be aware of the elevated risk to yourself and your loved ones, particularly those in your extended household who may be more vulnerable.