Saskatchewan’s chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab announced the measures on Dec. 14 and said they were being introduced based on the COVID-19 transmission patterns observed in the province.
The new measures came into effect at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 25.
As outlined in the public health order, retail services — essential and non-essential — must reduce their capacity for staff and customers to 50 per cent.
Additionally, large big box retailers must reduce to 25 per cent of capacity. These are defined as retailers with square footage over 20,000 square feet.
Capacity is based on fire code regulations, or, when fire code capacity has not been established, ensuring patrons can maintain a minimum of two metres of physical distance, according to officials.
“This reducing the 50 per cent capacity of your fire code isn’t going to have a tremendous impact on, I would say, a majority, many businesses that are operating, although in those areas there was hours of the day when they may be extremely busy,” Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said at a press conference on Dec. 14.
“What this will do is allow those folks to flatten out and maybe come at some different times of the day so that you don’t have those particular times where you have too many people in your retail location relative to what the actual physical location can manage for physical distancing.”
“The measures that we had put in place have slowed the rate of increase of the COVID infections that we have. We do need to push that further. But this is, again, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. And we need to manage our COVID infections over the course of the next number of months, not just the next number of weeks. And we also want to keep things as normal as we can in our communities.”
Moe said the provincial government recently reactivated the Saskatchewan Small Business Emergency Payment program.
“This program provides a payment of up to $5,000 to small and medium-sized businesses that are required to either shut down or to significantly curtail their operations due to a public health order that may be in place,” Moe said.
“We understand that (Dec. 14’s) announcement may impact a number of additional small businesses, so those businesses may now if required and if they qualify, be able to collect the small business emergency payment.
“So this is a more of a, I think, a strategic move. An effort to, yes, keep things as normal as possible but to start to really slow things down. To stop that spread so that we don’t have to face the question in January or February and we’re hopeful we won’t have to face the question of a shutdown in our communities.”
These public health measures are in addition to those that came into effect as of Nov. 27. All public health measures will remain in effect until Jan. 15, 2021, at which time they will be reviewed by Shahab.
Health officials said there were 154 new cases of the coronavirus in the daily update on Thursday, with the overall total for the province growing to 14,255 since the first case was reported in March. They added that the new seven-day average of daily cases is down to 203.
In total, there have been 134 COVID-19-related deaths in Saskatchewan.
Questions 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. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.
To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus. In some provinces and municipalities across the country, masks or face coverings are now mandatory in indoor public spaces.
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