Sask. premier says no new COVID-19 restrictions in near future, despite high case numbers

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While he’s not ruling out anything changing in the future, Premier Scott Moe says Saskatchewan is staying the course on its COVID-19 restrictions.

Premier Scott Moe says no new COVID-19 restrictions are currently being planned for Saskatchewan. (Michael Bell/The Canadian Press)

While Premier Scott Moe’s not ruling out changing anything in the future, he says Saskatchewan is staying the course on its COVID-19 restrictions.

As of Wednesday, there were 4,313 active cases of COVID-19 in the province. On that same day, Saskatchewan set a provincial record for COVID-19 hospitalizations, as well as for the number of people in intensive care units with the virus.

According to the federal government, Saskatchewan led the country in death rates over the last seven days. Saskatchewan also led all provinces in case rates over the last seven days, with only the Northwest Territories ranking higher.

While many of the province’s doctors are calling for increased restrictions, Moe said Thursday Saskatchewan will stay the course.

“The vast majority of Saskatchewan people are vaccinated and we’re not going to be implementing broad-based restrictions on 80-some per cent of the population that has gone out and got their first shot,” he said. 

“That being said, we have significant measures that are in place.”

Moe pointed out several measures recently put in place by the provincial government, including an order last month that brought back mandatory masking in public spaces.

The government is also requiring all employees of the province’s ministries, Crown corporations and government agencies to provide proof of vaccination as of Oct. 1. Those that cannot provide proof will be required to provide a negative COVID-19 test at least every seven days, beginning the week of Oct. 18 to 24.

Proof of vaccination or negative results are also required for indoor dining, nightclubs, casinos, movie theatres and fitness centres.

Premier Moe said the best way out of COVID-19 restrictions is increased vaccinations. He said vaccination rates have increased since the restrictions were brought in, and he expected them to continue to climb.

“We know that the vast majority of new cases are hospitalizations, and the pressure on our health-care system are predominantly unvaccinated people,” he said.

“This pandemic is being prolonged by unvaccinated people — and there’s no reason for it.”

But Moe cautioned nothing was off the table when it came to COVID-19, although he did not say when any new restrictions might be considered.

NDP Opposition leader Ryan Meili said the time is now for more measures.

“We are still seeing no gathering restrictions, still not seeing or even understanding that this government has made any clear asks when it comes to federal help,” Meili said. “Those folks on the front line who are working so hard see a government that isn’t even willing to ask for help to come and work alongside them.”

Moe said new restrictions are unfair to those who are vaccinated. 

But Meili said what’s unfair is the burden being placed on the health system.

“As long as our hospitals are filling up, as long as people are dying, that’s what’s not fair,” Meili said, adding anyone who needs health care is affected because they are not getting the care they usually would.

Organizing response

Also Thursday, Moe announced his plans to centralize the province’s COVID-19 response through the Provincial Emergency Operations Centre, an organization that will streamline government response between ministries.

The centre will be jointly led by the Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency, the Saskatchewan Health Authority and the Ministry of Health. 

The move is meant, in part, to free up management and administrative resources that could be used to directly treat patients.

“The pressure on our health-care system is being caused by the current wave of COVID 19 cases is a significant health-care challenge,” said Moe. 

“But it’s also a major organizational challenge, ensuring that we have the right people, the right equipment and resources in the right place at the right time.”

Saskatchewan’s health-care system has been under significant strain during the fourth wave. Over the last month, the province has slowed down many hospital services in an attempt to free up resources to create more ICU beds. 

Officials said it was too early to know how many extra health care personnel would be freed up from the move.

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