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Is it too soon to lose all COVID-19 restrictions in Saskatchewan?

Click to play video: 'Too soon to lose all COVID-19 restrictions?' Too soon to lose all COVID-19 restrictions?
Saskatchewan dropped its COVID-19 restrictions but an epidemiologist says it's too soon to stop wearing masks. – Jul 11, 2021

It’s too soon to go maskless and drop all other COVID-19 public health orders despite Saskatchewan doing just that, according to a scientist who studies the novel coronavirus and vaccination rates.

“I think the delta variant is very much active and present in our communities,” University of Saskatchewan’s Dr. Nazeem Muhajarine said.

At 12:01 a.m. on July 11, the Saskatchewan government dropped all pandemic restrictions after proclaiming three weeks earlier that 70 per cent of eligible residents had received their first vaccination.

Read more: Saskatchewan lifts all remaining COVID-19 public health restrictions

The real figure was actually slightly less than that when Premier Scott Moe made the announcement, though Muhajarine said the timing is still alright because the province was so close.

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But he told Global News he doesn’t think all restrictions should be lifted or removed all at once.

The main obstacle is the highly contagious delta variant, which the scientist called a “wild card.”

An outbreak in Israel, after that country was highly vaccinated and had reopened, shows vaccinated people can still spread the virus and get infected.

“That is the key lesson that we are learning from Israel,” Muhajarine said.

“It’s a lesson that we could do without.”

Read more: Masking guidelines to remain in place at most Saskatchewan Health Authority facilities

Muhajarine said new variants will keep emerging – that “we will march down the Greek alphabet” to name them – from either countries with unvaccinated populations or unvaccinated people in countries with high inoculation rates.

And he told Global News that vaccine hesitancy rates in his research lead him to conclude fewer people will get their second dose, meaning Saskatchewan won’t reach herd immunity.

He’s predicting a maximum of around 60 per cent of Saskatchewan residents will get fully vaccinated.

Muhajarine told Global News he will still be observing (the former) guidelines – staying home, staying physically distant and wearing a mask.

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The senior director of childcare at the Regina YWCA said masks will be optional but recommended at its daycare facilities.

Tara Molson said she’s excited about the loosening restrictions, but many parents, children and staff will likely keep masks on.

“Some parents really feel comfortable continuing to mask, as well as our staff. It’s up to them,” she said.

“We highly recommend it.”

She told Global News she’s excited to welcome parents back into the building for the first time since the pandemic began.

Read more: Saskatchewan lifts all remaining COVID-19 public health restrictions

While staff will stop checking children’s temperatures at the door and giving them (via their parents) a COVID screening, she did say the organization is keeping several health measures in place, including handwashing and sanitization protocols.

“One thing we’re really lucky to have within our facilities is antigen testing and that’s something that our staff do every week,” Molson said.

She told Global News that taking care of so many kids requires staff to always operate in a sort of “outbreak mode” and that will continue well after Sunday.

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Muhajarine said he wishes the rest of the province would take the same approach.

“The smart thing to do is to wear masks, still do the social distancing and make sure that you… stay home if you have signs and symptoms.”

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