COVID-19: Saskatchewan lays out ‘roadmap’ in reopening from pandemic

Click to play video: 'Saskatchewan lays out ‘roadmap’ in reopening from pandemic'
Saskatchewan lays out ‘roadmap’ in reopening from pandemic
WATCH: Saskatchewan's premier and chief medical health officer are laying out what they call the reopening roadmap, a three-tiered approach to easing COVID-19 restrictions – May 5, 2021

Saskatchewan laid out its three-step ReOpening Roadmap to gradually lift restrictions in the province as more people are vaccinated against COVID-19.

Premier Scott Moe said Tuesday the three steps provide residents of the province with incentives to follow public health measures and get vaccinated.

The first step could be reached by the last week of May.

“The road to the end of this pandemic runs through the vaccination clinics, and today we are providing Saskatchewan people with a clear roadmap of how we will get there and some important markers along the way,” Moe said.

“This is not only a reopening plan. It’s also a plan to encourage people to get vaccinated and to keep following all the public health orders and guidelines.”

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“Those are the two things we all need to do in order to move forward through the three steps of reopening so we can enjoy a great Saskatchewan summer and get back to normal.”

Saskatchewan NDP health critic Vicki Mowat said while she welcomes the clarity the government is providing with its roadmap, more details are needed.

“The official Opposition has been asking for clear benchmarks on public health measures for 14 months,” Mowat said in a statement.

“We believe that Saskatchewan families deserve to see the modelling and public health advice that has led to this decision.”

A concern raised by Mowat is the use of vaccination numbers as the metric for the plan.

“Vaccination numbers are important, but they do not tell the whole story. With Alberta imposing further restrictions today, we need to keep a close eye on case counts, test positivity, hospitalizations and other public health indicators to guide our steps forward,” she said.

Health officials said provincial hospitalization rates will be monitored throughout the reopening.

They cautioned that if acute care pressures require, a reopening step may be paused to respond to COVID-transmission trends at regional or provincial levels.

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Click to play video: 'Saskatchewan premier lays out 3-phase reopening plan'
Saskatchewan premier lays out 3-phase reopening plan

Step One of the plan requires that three weeks have passed since 70 per cent of the population aged 40 and older have received their first vaccine shot.

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It will see an easing of some public health measures and includes bringing Regina and surrounding communities in line with current measures.

Under Step One, restaurants and bars can open with a maximum of six people at a table. Buffets and dance floors must remain closed, but VLTs can reopen.

Places of worship can operate at 30 per cent capacity or 150 people, whichever is less, with physical distancing between households.

Group fitness classes will be able to resume, with three metres of distancing between participants.

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There will be a limit of 10 people at private indoor, outdoor and household gatherings.

Public indoor gatherings will be capped at 30 people, with a 150-person limit at outdoor gatherings.

The current province-wide masking mandate remains in place for steps one and two.

Currently, 65 per cent of the population 40 and older have received their first shot.

The province said based on the current pace of vaccinations, it could move to Step One by the last week of May.

Health officials said all current public health measures remain in place until reviewed as part of implementing Step One.

“As the provincial vaccination campaign continues and we see our way out of the pandemic event, all residents must continue those best practices to protect us all against transmission,” said Dr. Saqib Shahab, Saskatchewan’s chief medical health officer.

“Get vaccinated when it is your turn, mask whenever you are in an indoor public place outside your household, particularly in the workplace; keep your number of contacts low and restrict gatherings in accordance with public health measures; and get tested for even the mildest symptoms or if you think you have been exposed to COVID-19.”

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The Saskatchewan government said Step Two will be implemented once three weeks have passed since 70 per cent of people aged 30 and older have received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine.

Three weeks must also have passed since the implementation of Step One.

The province said three weeks is being used as a buffer between thresholds and the easing of public health measures as that is the length of time it takes an individual to achieve the necessary immune response to a dose of COVID-19 vaccine.

Shahab said as targets are met, the province’s aggressive vaccination program will continue unabated.

“We need to achieve the highest vaccination rate possible to protect ourselves and those in our province who are unable to receive a vaccine,” Shahab said.

“It’s only a matter of a few weeks before we begin providing the second doses of our two-dose vaccines, providing full protection to Saskatchewan residents.”

Click to play video: 'Elderly Saskatchewan residents to receive 2nd COVID-19 vaccine dose sooner than 16 weeks'
Elderly Saskatchewan residents to receive 2nd COVID-19 vaccine dose sooner than 16 weeks

Under Step Two, there are no capacity thresholds for retail and personal care services, but social distancing must be maintained.

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Restaurants and bars will have no table capacity but must maintain physical distancing or barriers between tables.

Capacity at event facilities, casinos, bingo halls, theatres, libraries and recreational facilities will be capped at 150 people.

Limits on the number of people allowed at private indoor gatherings and household gathers will rise to 15.

All remaining restrictions on youth and adult sports will be lifted.

The province said Step Two could be reached by the third week of June.

Step Three requires 70 per cent of everyone 18 years of age and older be vaccinated and could be met be by mid-July.

The Saskatchewan government said once the threshold is met, most restrictions will be lifted.

However, officials said they are still working on guidance on gathering sizes and indoor masking requirements, noting that public health orders from Step Two on those will remain in place until the guidance is finalized.

Click to play video: 'Saskatchewan’s top doctor says world is in pandemic ‘for the long term’ as province lays out COVID-19 reopening plan'
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