Saskatchewan is bringing in more measures to further reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission.
“We know that much of the community transmission continues to occur in our household settings,” Premier Scott Moe said Monday at a briefing.
“As a result, this needs to be a different kind of Christmas. This needs to be a different holiday season for each of us.”
As of 12:01 a.m. Thursday morning, Moe said private indoor gatherings will be limited to immediate household members only.
People living on their own are allowed to meet with one, consistent household of fewer than five individuals.
Health officials said co-parenting arrangements can continue and caregivers and support services in the home are also permitted to continue.
Up to 10 people can meet outdoors, provided physical distancing between households can be maintained. This is a reduction from the current 30 people maximum.
“Reopen Saskatchewan guidelines have been effective at reducing transmission in those settings where we have implemented measures like restaurants and retail settings,” said Saskatchewan’s chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab.
“It’s the in-between places, the social settings, where COVID-19 transmission is happening. In our break rooms and staff rooms, by inviting new people into our homes, we are letting our guard down.”
Two days later, on Dec. 19, additional measures will be brought in.
Casinos and bingo halls will have to close and personal services will have to operate at 50 per cent capacity — that applies to both clients and staff.
Event venues, conference facilities, arenas, arts venues, museums, movie and live theatres and banquet facilities may still have events of up to 30 individuals but all guests must remain seated for the duration. Food and drink are not permitted unless explicitly stated in the order.
“We can still celebrate the holiday season. After a difficult year, it’s more important than ever to connect with loved ones but it must be done at a safe distance or virtually,” Shahab said.
“Share time with friends and family but keep everyone safe.”
More measures are being brought in on Christmas Day, Dec 25.
Retail services will have to reduce capacity to 50 per cent. Large retails locations — those with a square footage of more than 20,000 square feet — will be limited to 25 per cent capacity.
These, along with all other measures in effect since Nov. 27, will be in place until at least Jan. 15, health officials said.
At that time, health officials will review the orders and determine if they should be eased, extended or expanded.
In response to Monday’s announcement, Saskatchewan NDP Leader Ryan Meili called the government’s previous measures implemented in November failures.
“There is nothing that was announced today that could not have been put in effect weeks earlier when a targeted circuit breaker could have actually had a tangible impact on the spread of COVID-19 in our communities,” Meili said in a statement.
“This government’s chaotic, wait-and-see approach has led to lockdown measures that are at once more severe and less effective.
“We have schools closing early while bars and restaurants remain open. Family gatherings have been effectively reduced to zero – unless you meet for drinks or dinner or rent a hall. Small businesses are left with the worst of both worlds: told to stay open while their customers are urged to stay home.”
Moe said he’s opposed to a circuit breaker or massive lockdown like Saskatchewan saw imposed back in March when the pandemic struck.
“I am opposed to a circuit breaker or a massive lockdown here in the province for, not the reasons that might be suggested, I don’t believe it’s the right thing to do,” Moe said.
“The approach we have tried to take is one to slow things down to a degree where we can preserve the capacity of our health-care system and where we can preserve the opportunity for people to go to work to their job each and every day and to have a job and preserve the opportunity for our students to go to school.
“The reasons that I would be opposed to a lockdown, given that it may be necessary at some point, and I don’t believe that point is as of yet, are not political in nature. They are most certainly, from my perspective, in the best interests of representing the people of this province to ensuring that we not only have the opportunity to have life as normal as it possibly can be … as we find our way to the finish line of this COVID pandemic.”
-With files from Thomas PillerView link »