Saskatchewan is extending its current public health orders to the end of February.
Under the current orders, masking is mandatory in all indoor public spaces, including schools.
Proof of vaccination or a negative test are in place for a number of establishments, including bars, restaurants, liquor and cannabis stores, gyms and fitness centres.
The province said the public health orders will be reassessed at the end of February.
Premier Scott Moe also said during a briefing Wednesday morning that he has no intention of bringing in a tax on people who do not get vaccinated.
Quebec Premier François Legault said Tuesday that his province will impose a health tax on Quebecers who refuse to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Moe said Saskatchewan is not considering a similar approach, and Legault’s government hasn’t received an answer on if such a tax is even constitutional.
“If Quebec wants to look at whether or not they can do that … they’re free to look into that. We’re not doing that here,” Moe told reporters.
The premier also faced questions about why Saskatchewan remains the lone province not to introduce new restrictions since the arrival of Omicron in Canada. Last week, chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab repeated the same recommendation at least four times — that this not the time for people to gather in indoor spaces, other than for work and school.
“We’re seeing (COVID-19 case) numbers continue to spread in areas that have restrictions in place that go far beyond gathering limits,” Moe said.
“It doesn’t seem to be slowing the spread of Omicron in other areas of Canada.”
In response to Moe’s news conference, NDP Opposition Leader Ryan Meili said Moe has “repeatedly chosen to do nothing” since the onset of the Omicron variant.
He repeated a call for a five-point “Omicron plan,” including keeping schools open and safe, bringing in paid sick leave, imposing public health measures like gathering restrictions, supporting Saskatchewan businesses with relief funding and implementing a hospital surge plan.
“We’re hurtling towards a health-care disaster,” Meili said.
Due to the sheer number of Omicron cases in the province, the Saskatchewan government anticipates health-care workers, education staff and other essential employees will be forced to isolate in the coming weeks. Details on surge planning will be provided during a Provincial Emergency Operations Centre briefing planned for Thursday, according to the premier.
The plan will include multiple phases and what conditions would trigger each phase, according to Moe. Metrics will include hospitalization rates and staffing impacts to the Saskatchewan Health Authority.
New data from the Saskatchewan government shows a contrast in the number of COVID-19 cases in December and January.
The data was released Tuesday as the province prepared to provide an update on the COVID-19 situation.
Saskatchewan reported 4,621 COVID-19 cases for all of December.
For the first 11 days of January, 8,866 new COVID-19 cases have been reported, mainly driven by the Omicron variant.
The vaccination status of the new cases in January is not being reported.
The province suspended its new cases by vaccination status after the table showed a significant number of the new cases were in unvaccinated people.
Provincial officials said of the new cases in December, 60.7 per cent were in fully vaccinated people.
They said of the 2,804 cases with a second dose, 250 people had comorbid conditions and 159 people were age 65 and older.
The province also reported 65 people were hospitalized during the month with COVID-19, of whom 52.3 per cent were vaccinated.
Of the 15 ICU cases reported for December, 66.7 per cent were unvaccinated. The province said two ICU patients who had their booster shot had comorbid conditions.
Seven deaths were reported for the month, four of whom were unvaccinated.
The province said no deaths were reported in the group with a first booster shot or in those under the age of 20.