Additional cases of COVID-19 are prompting the Saskatchewan government to take serious action.
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe signed an order on Friday pursuant to the provincial state of emergency — demanding all orders of the government and chief medical health officer must be followed as provincial law, under the Emergency Measures Act.
The order gives law enforcement agencies in Saskatchewan full authority to enforce them, including the ability to arrest. If disobeyed, fines could be issued.
The Regina Police Service (RPS) said it’s working with the Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency and Public Health to determine details of enforcement if necessary.
“Our top priority is community safety. We echo the province in seeking compliance to self-isolation and social distancing, and we expect that can be achieved through education,” read a statement from RPS.
“All calls received to our police service regarding this matter will be recorded appropriately and we will work with Public Health to determine the best course of action.”
Saskatchewan RCMP, Saskatoon Police Service and Prince Albert Police Service also put out similar statements.
The province now has eight cases of COVID-19 confirmed and 18 presumptive cases as of March 20. Moe said he believes all but two of the 26 cases in the province are directly linked to international travel.
Moe shared his concerns that people returning to Saskatchewan from international travel are not taking part in the recommendation to self-isolate for 14 days.
“I know that the vast majority of Saskatchewan people are taking their personal responsibility seriously and following this order,” Moe said in a press release.
“But a few are not. This is not a suggestion. It is not a guideline. It is the law and it must be followed.”
The government said anyone who travelled internationally must self-isolate for 14 days when arriving back in Canada. Moe added non-compliance could result in a $2,000 fine.
This law applies to travellers already in self-isolation but doesn’t apply to health care workers, truckers, rail workers or airline workers required to work to maintain essential services.
Saskatchewan’s Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab said they will begin the online posting of airline flights with passengers who have tested positive.
He added it takes time to get flight manifests, for people to show symptoms and get tested, as well as the volume of people coming back has increased.
People identified by a medical health officer as a close contact of someone with COVID-19 must self-isolate for 14 days, according to the press release.
While in self-isolation, people who start feeling symptoms of the virus must call HealthLine 811 and follow their instructions, officials said.
In addition, the government said anybody living with a person with a confirmed case of COVID-19 must go into self-isolation and to call HealthLine 811.
The following measures are effective immediately:
- Public gatherings of over 25 people in one room are prohibited except where two-metre distancing between people can be maintained; workplace and meeting settings where people are distributed into multiple rooms or buildings; and retail locations;
- Nightclubs, bars, lounges and similar facilities must close. The takeout of alcohol or food products is permitted with two-metre distancing between customers and the delivery of alcohol or food products;
- In-person classes in all primary and secondary educational institutions both public and private are suspended;
- Visitors to long-term care homes, hospitals, personal care homes, and group homes shall be restricted to family visiting for compassionate reasons.
The following measures are effective March 23:
- The closure of restaurants, food courts, cafeterias, cafes, bistros and similar facilities. Exceptions are takeout with two-metre distancing between customers during pick-up; drive-through food services; delivery of food products; soup kitchens, not-for-profit community and religious kitchens with two-metre distancing between tables;
- The closure of all recreational and entertainment facilities including fitness centres, casinos, bingo halls, arenas, curling rinks, swimming pools, galleries, theatres, museums and similar facilities;
- The closure of all personal service facilities including tattooists, hairdressers, barbers, acupuncturists, acupressurists, cosmetologists, electrologists, estheticians, manicurists, pedicurists, suntanning parlours, relaxation masseuses, facilities in which body piercing, bone grafting or scarification services;
- The closure of dental, optometrist, chiropractic, registered massage therapy and podiatry clinics except for non-elective procedures;
- All daycare facilities are limited to a maximum of eight children unless they can configure the facility so that a maximum of eight children are kept in room and be in accordance with the Saskatchewan child care guidelines for care; and
- All daycares that are co-located with long-term care or personal care home that meet the above restriction shall be segregated with a private entrance so that there are no shared common areas with the home and no interaction between daycare children and residents of the facility.
“These are the measures that are necessary for us to flatten the curve of COVID-19. These are the measures that are necessary for us to reduce the risk to protect our families, to protect our neighbours and to protect our friends. But this doesn’t work if most of us do it. We all have to,” Moe said.
Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
Health officials say the risk is low for Canadians but warn this could change quickly. They caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are asked to self-isolate for 14 days in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others.
Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.
To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. And if you get sick, stay at home.