COVID-19: Premier Moe says no new measures on the way for Saskatchewan

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COVID-19: Premier Moe says no new measures on the way for Saskatchewan
WATCH: Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe is doubling down on his opposition to new public health restrictions as pressure mounts in the province’s largest hospitals – Jan 25, 2022

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe says the province will not be announcing any new public health measures despite growing numbers of new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations due to the rapid spread of the Omicron variant.

The premier made his remarks on Monday during a provincial COVID-19 update with Health Minister Paul Merriman from the legislative building. It was the first time the premier had appeared at a COVID-19 provincial update since he tested positive for the virus on Jan. 13.

In his opening remarks, he pointed to Saskatchewan’s rising hospitalization admissions, but said they remain lower compared to other provinces that have imposed stricter lockdown policies.

Later on in his statement, Moe announced they won’t be looking at reimplementing public health measures at this time.

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“Omicron is spreading across Canada and spreading around the world regardless of the public health measures that are in place, which is why we have chosen to avoid increasing those public health measures and increasing the policies surrounding lockdowns here in Saskatchewan,” stated the premier during Monday’s conference.

“We are not going to impose additional restrictions that cause significant harm for no significant benefit.”

During the event, Moe compared Saskatchewan’s COVID-19 situation to Quebec’s, which he suggested has “the largest or most extreme lockdown policies in place in Canada.”

He discussed how Quebec currently has just under 40 hospitalizations per 100,000 people, which he said is nearly double Saskatchewan’s rate.

The premier said they are avoiding the economic and psychological harm and the infringement on personal freedoms that are often caused by lockdowns.

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“I’ve also been challenged by some to provide evidence that lockdowns don’t work. The evidence is right here in Saskatchewan as we manage through this Omicron wave with very little in the way of restrictions on people’s lives and we have lower rates of hospitalizations, ICU admissions and fatalities through the month of January than many other provinces with much more severe restrictions,” Moe added.

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“We live with other diseases in our communities and in our province that are also ongoing concerns. We do this without locking down, without taking people’s freedoms and without disrupting everyone’s life. We need to get to that point with COVID-19.”

The premier needs to provide data to back up his claims, especially ​since Saskatchewan’s Omicron trajectory is 10 to 14 days behind other provinces, according to University of Saskatchewan epidemiologist Dr. Nazeem Muhajarine.

“We cannot look at Quebec and Ontario now and say we are doing better,” Muhajarine said.

Muhajarine described Moe’s approach as an example of how political leaders shouldn’t handle a pandemic. However, Muhajarine said time may be running out for restrictions to curb Omicron’s spread.

“It’s like a serious storm that comes and goes. It passes through us,” Muhajarine said. Still, he said restrictions would help curb the overall case rate and resulting hospitalizations.

Speaking on his personal experience of having COVID-19, Moe said he had little to no symptoms and that he “felt quite good” throughout his infection.

He used his experience to encourage people to get vaccinated and receive their booster shot if they have not done so already.

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“I expect it might have been a lot worse had I not been fully vaccinated and I had not received my booster shot a couple weeks prior.”

The government said as of Monday morning there are 262 COVID-19 patients in hospital across Saskatchewan with 107 of those being incidental cases. 26 people are in ICUs.

This comes after Saskatchewan recorded 1,629 COVID-19 cases on Sunday, pushing the province’s active case count to 13,290.

NDP react to Moe’s comments

Saskatchewan NDP leader Ryan Meili gave his thoughts following Monday’s COVID-19 update.

Speaking to reporters in a virtual media availability, Meili said Moe made the choice to mislead people, downplay the seriousness of the current COVID-19 situation, overburden the health care system and malign public health experts.

“Sadly, none of this is new. These are the choices the premier has made throughout the pandemic, with increasingly deadly results,” stated Meili on Monday.

Meili and the official opposition have been calling on the Saskatchewan government to establish stronger health measures, including gathering limits, and to bring in more support for schools.

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“The fact is, no matter how long we wait, no matter how many chances we give him, Scott Moe is unable or unwilling to make the right choices. He will always put the worst of his political ambitions ahead of the health of Saskatchewan people.”

The NDP leader added that others need to speak up and tell the truth regarding what has been recommended to the government and what the province is set to face in the fight against the pandemic’s fifth wave.

Those he called on include chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab, Saskatchewan Health Authority leadership and Saskatchewan Party MLAs he said “still have any respect for the health of Saskatchewan people.”

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