Saskatchewan’s current public health order mandates masks be worn in all indoor public settings. A proof-of-vaccination or negative test policy is also in place in a number of settings.
But the province has not introduced tighter restrictions such as gathering limits.
Premier Scott Moe was asked by reporters on Wednesday why his government isn’t putting any further restrictions in despite case counts reaching all-time highs.
“I don’t know that those are working in any other province across Canada. We’re seeing 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.”
Moe urged residents to get their booster shots, wear their best mask and utilize rapid tests to limit spread.
Moe also acknowledged that there will be interruptions to schooling and workplaces as COVID-19 infections continue to rise.
“We should all be patient as we work our way through this (and) we should expect and plan for those interruptions,” Moe added.
“This is the path that we have chosen — is we’re going to continue to move forward in this province (and) provide all of the tools that are available so that individuals and families can do their own personal risk assessment.”
Moe recognized the advice of Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab — that residents should limit gathering with others — but said he believes that those who are gathering are taking precautions.
With the government not putting any further restrictions in place and Shahab maintaining that Saskatchewan residents should limit their contacts, Moe was asked who people should trust.
“They should trust themselves,” Moe responded.
“We are asking Saskatchewan people to use their judgment when they do feel it is necessary to come together.”
Public policy professor Ken Coates noted that Saskatchewan has become an outlier on the national scale by not introducing further restrictions.
“I think we’re recognizing at this stage of the pandemic that nobody has all the answers,” Coates said.
He added that people are exhausted of the pandemic and sick of restrictions.
“I don’t see a lot of people getting furious with the government for not putting on the restrictions. And had they put on restrictions, you would have people furious with the government for putting them on,” Coates said.
“You’re not going to win this, this particular issue, and nobody knows what really works best.”
Coates thinks Saskatchewan residents are more on the libertarian side of the issue.
“We are sort of the beating heart of conservatism right now,” Coates said.
Coates added that although the opposition party and some doctors are upset with the provincial government for not doing more, other doctors are not.
“There’s no easy path through all of this.”
Coates explained that Saskatchewan has been more supportive and understanding of the challenges faced by business owners, “because we’re a small town province with a lot of small businesses that are the backbone of these communities.”
With Moe offering a reasoning today why he isn’t putting in tighter restrictions, Coates doesn’t think he resolved the problem of mixed messaging.
“I don’t think any government in Canada has resolved that problem,” Coates said.
Coates’ main message to people is to “cut the government slack.”
“Governments are doing the best they can with available information and available public opinion. You can only do as much as the public will allow you to do, and you can only do what you are convinced by the science that is the right thing to do.”