Municipalities in Saskatchewan cannot further restrict individuals’ freedoms in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, says the province.
On Monday, the Government of Saskatchewan will review the extra restrictions placed on Regina residents after the city’s council issued a local state of emergency on Friday. All orders that don’t align with the province’s own emergency order will be cancelled immediately.
For example, the City of Regina ordered the closure of all retail stores starting Monday and said public crowds must be limited to five people — something the city doesn’t have the authority to do.
“I fully understand that Mayor (Michael) Fougere and Regina City Council intended to set guidelines for residents of Regina to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” said Government Relations Minister Lori Carr.
“However, during this time of great uncertainty, it is of the utmost importance that we provide certainty to Saskatchewan residents and make every effort to minimize confusion.”
As a result, retail stores in Regina don’t have to close on Monday.
“The regulations we have address restaurants and bars. We don’t have any restrictions against regular retail, so yes, they can be open,” said Carr.
“It’s really important we ensure there’s not a patchwork of restrictions and standards.
Just two Saskatchewan municipalities have taken steps to place further restrictions on residents during the coronavirus pandemic. This includes Regina and Gravelbourg.
Carr said she spoke to Gravelbourg’s Mayor Robert Bowler on Sunday notifying him the community must follow the province’s order, and can not make up their own.
The government based their order on professional advice from Dr. Saqib Shahab, the province’s chief medical health officer.
“What we’re really trying to do here is just to ensure everyone is kept as healthy and safe as possible, that’s why we put the restrictions that we put in,” Carr said.
The government has also spoken to the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association and the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities to ensure all communities are aware of the province’s restrictions.
The province’s public order can be found here, and includes limiting crowds to 25 people or less and ordering the closure of all recreational and entertainment facilities.
Although communities can not create differencing orders, Gravelbourg says their emergency order will now serve as a recommendation for residents.
“Everyone is scared and this small community has pulled together very quickly,” said Joan Corneil, chief administrative officer for the Town of Gravelbourg.
Corneil said some orders can seem “Martial-like”, referring to Martial Law, but that “some people just don’t get it.”
She hopes that the province will implement further restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and would eventually like to see Canada Post stop mail delivery.
“Our ultimate goal is to flatten the curve,” said Corneil. “To contain the virus, wherever it is.”
Global News has reached out to the City of Regina for comment. A spokesperson for the city said someone would be available for comment on Monday.
Concerned about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
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.
To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend social distancing, frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. And if you get sick, stay at home.
For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.