REGINA — Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe says he hopes to fully reopen the province by July 11.
"We have had the public health orders in place in this province for 445 days now," Moe said Tuesday. "They could all be removed in just a little over a month."
Moe said most restrictions will be removed three weeks after 70 per cent of those aged 12 and older have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
The province will also wait three weeks after the start of the second stage of its reopening plan, which is expected to happen on June 20.
Step three, which requires 70 per cent of those age 18 and older to receive their first dose, would see most restrictions in the province lifted.
The final step would also remove gathering size limits and indoor masking orders.
Moe said he is confident the province can safely move forward with removing the remaining restrictions on this timeline.
"Vaccines are working," he said. "They are driving down case numbers, they are driving down hospitalization numbers here in Saskatchewan as well as across Canada and around the world.
"(And) because of these high vaccination targets we have set, particularly the last one of 70 per cent of those aged 12 and older with their first shot, we will be able to move forward with our plan."
Sixty-two per cent of those aged 12 and older in the province have now received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Moe compared Saskatchewan's reopening efforts to those in the United States.
"The U.S. has moved forward with their reopening much faster than we have here in Saskatchewan — and with lower vaccination rates — and their case numbers do continue to fall," he said.
"Here, we are taking a more cautious approach with a higher level of vaccinations required."
However, when the mask mandate is removed, Moe said everyone should do what they feel comfortable doing.
"If you want to keep wearing your mask until you’ve received your second shot, then that’s fine," he said. "Or when you’re in the store, when you’re at work — that’s all perfectly fine."
Moe encouraged Saskatchewan residents who have already been vaccinated to harness "the power of a conversation on coffee row" and talk to their unvaccinated neighbours about getting a shot.
The Saskatchewan Roughriders expressed their enthusiasm for the latest development in the province's reopening plan.
"We are thrilled to hear from the premier that we will be able to welcome Rider Nation back to Mosaic Stadium without capacity restrictions once step three has been achieved," the team said in a tweet.
"It is a testament to the people of Saskatchewan who have worked so hard and sacrificed so much to get here."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 1, 2021.
— By Julia Peterson in Saskatoon.