Saskatchewan to start reopening from the coronavirus pandemic on May 4

Saskatchewan will reopen its economy and services in five phases starting on May 4.

Premier Scott Moe said Wednesday the coronavirus curve has flattened in the province and the reopening will be gradual and methodical.

Those plans have now been made public.

Moe said the plan balances reopening the economy while ensuring people remain protected.

“We have to find the middle ground that continues to keep our case numbers low and keep Saskatchewan people safe while at the same time allowing for businesses to reopen and Saskatchewan people to get back to work,” Moe said.

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“It’s a plan that will be conducted in phases and we will carefully monitor transmission and other factors during each of those phases and we will adjust the plan if required.”

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus outbreak: Premier Moe unveils plan to reopen Saskatchewan economy'
Coronavirus outbreak: Premier Moe unveils plan to reopen Saskatchewan economy

The first phase is reopening medical services previously banned under the current public health order. This includes access to dentistry, optometry, physical therapy, opticians, podiatry, occupational therapy and chiropractic treatment.

Not included is the resumption of elective surgeries, diagnostics and other non-essential procedures that are currently suspended. The government said that it is being considered separately and updates on when those will resume will be released in the near future.

Also being rolled out in stages during the first phase is the resumption of low-risk outdoor activities, with precautionary measures in place.

Fishing and boat launches are allowed starting May 4, and golf courses will be allowed to open as of May 15 with physical distancing guidelines.

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The online reservation system for provincial parks will launch on May 4, and overnight camping will be allowed starting June 1. Park access is restricted to Saskatchewan residents only.

The size of public and private gatherings will remain limited to a maximum of 10 people.

However, Moe believes it is OK at this time for people to get together in small groups if physical distancing rules are observed.

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“Is it OK for close friends, family or a neighbour to come over and maybe have a barbecue in your backyard? I think it is,” Moe said.

“I have a son that I haven’t seen for six weeks. I’d love to have a barbecue with him and cook a locally-grown and processed steak sooner rather than later, and I think we will.”

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Saskatchewan NDP Leader Ryan Meili has concerns Moe is sending mixed signals in saying these gatherings can take place.

“I still am concerned and worried, and this is one of the questions that I have around, for example, the advice people are getting of what they can do in terms of interactions with friends and family,” Meili said.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty… I am worried people will say ‘oh we’re talking reopen, we’re reopened, we can go hang out with people the way we used to.’

“We’re not there yet.”

However, any rollout in Saskatchewan is subject to change based on transmission patterns and other factors, officials cautioned.

COVID-19 numbers will be monitored daily, which will guide decisions made regarding the pace of lifting restrictions, or conversely putting them back in place.

Saskatchewan has reported 326 total coronavirus cases as of Wednesday, with 61 considered active.

There have been four COVID-19-related deaths in Saskatchewan.

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus outbreak: Saskatchewan anticipates potential ‘localized flare ups’ as economy reopens'
Coronavirus outbreak: Saskatchewan anticipates potential ‘localized flare ups’ as economy reopens

The second phase will roll out on May 19, and include businesses and select private services that were previously deemed not allowable.

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“Over the next several weeks, restrictions will be gradually lifted by adding more types of businesses to the allowable businesses list, meaning that they can re-open if they so choose,” Moe said.

He added that he doesn’t believe the province is moving too fast in lifting restrictions on retail stores, given new practices enacted at stores that were allowed to remain open.

“We have flattened the curve even as these businesses have remained open over the course of the last number of months,” Moe said.

“This gives us confidence that Saskatchewan business can reopen and keep their customers and their employees safe by maintaining similar practices across the sector.”

Dr. Saqib Shahab, the province’s chief medical health officer, said this is not a return to normal.

“It’s not really back to business as usual. It’s going forward to business in a new normal for the next little while,” Shahab said.

“We need to continue to learn from what we see and see what would be the possibilities in the future to maybe allow some events in as safe a manner as possible.”

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus outbreak: Moe says he doesn’t anticipate municipalities reopening ‘out of step’ with province'
Coronavirus outbreak: Moe says he doesn’t anticipate municipalities reopening ‘out of step’ with province

During his daily briefing, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the provinces have different postures on COVID-19 and will make decisions they feel are appropriate for them.

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“Until we either have a vaccine or significant treatments for COVID-19 we’re not going to be able to talk about getting back to normal, but in the coming months we will be able to loosen a number of the rules and restrictions we have right now on personal mobility in certain sectors of the economy,” Trudeau said.

“What we’re doing at the federal level is attempting to pull together and co-ordinate with all different provinces so we are working from [a] similar set of guidelines and principles to ensure Canadians right across the country are being kept safe as we look to those next steps.”

The second phase will roll out on May 19 and include businesses and select private services that were previously deemed not allowable.

Businesses included in the second phase are clothing and shoe stores, flower shops and gift, book and stationery stores.

Hairdressers and barbers, registered massage therapists, acupuncturists and acupressurists can also start providing services as of May 19.

“All businesses and public venues will be required to continue following physical distancing and cleaning and disinfection practices to protect both employees and customers,” Moe said.

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“Members of the public will be expected to follow physical distancing rules and to stay home if they are experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms.”

Restrictions on travel, mass gatherings and senior care homes will remain in place for the foreseeable future.

Dates for the remaining three phases — which includes restaurants, childcare facilities, any remaining personal services, and indoor and outdoor recreational facilities — have not yet been determined.

“The results during phase one and phase two will ultimately determine the dates for future phases,” Moe said.

As those phases are rolled out, the size of gatherings will be increased.

No dates were announced for the reopening of schools.

“There really isn’t an opportunity for us to have a discussion around reopening schools in the next number of weeks,” Moe said.

“As we get into the end of May, early June, we’re nearing the end of the school year and I expect that we would have a discussion at some point as to whether it would be worth the risk to open the schools for just a week or two at the end of the year.”

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Moe said the next couple of months will determine if schools will open this fall.

“That, again, will be determined by how the next number of months go with respect to our battle against COVID-19, because it’s not expected that we would have a vaccination, obviously, by this early fall when schools resume.”

Moe added that it is up to universities to decide when classes will resume on campuses.

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