Saskatchewan dropping proof of vaccination requirement

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Saskatchewan drops proof-of-vaccination
WATCH: Saskatchewan's public health order requiring proof of vaccination or of a recent negative COVID-19 test expires at 12:01 a.m. on Monday – Feb 13, 2022

The Saskatchewan government’s public health order requiring proof of vaccination or proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test to enter most public buildings expires at 12:01 a.m. Monday.

The measures were put in place last October to stop the disease from spreading.

The requirement included venues such as theatres, bingo halls, concerts, gyms, liquor stores and cannabis retailers.

Some businesses have been exempt from the policy, including grocery stores, health care services, public libraries and private gatherings.

Residents can still save their proof of vaccination records and QR codes on eHealth Saskatchewan.

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The government is still encouraging residents to get vaccinated and booster shots to reduce transmission.

On Tuesday Premier Scott Moe said the proof-of-vaccination system benefits no longer outweigh the costs.

“It’s time to heal the divisions over vaccination in our families, in our communities and in our province. It’s time for proof of vaccination requirements to end,” Moe said at a press conference.

The decision comes as hospitalizations remain high. According to a Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) physician town hall last Thursday, the spread may be slowing but the non-ICU hospital system is at capacity.

A screenshot of the internal COVID-19 dashboard, only available to SHA leadership, shows 378 people were in hospital as of 10:30 a.m. on Sunday.

“The challenge here … is trying to understand what the rationale for all of this was, and what the rush was,” infectious disease physician Dr. Alex Wong said, referring to lifting the proof of vaccination health order.

He said vaccine uptake will likely decrease without the health order in place.

“Getting that third dose makes obviously a massive difference,” he said, adding that three doses significantly reduces a person’s chances of contracting and transmitting the virus.

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Dale MacKay co-owns Grassroots Restaurant Group, which runs two restaurants in Regina and three in Saskatoon. The restaurants only accepted dine-in customers who had proof of vaccination, going beyond the public health order.

“We chose not to necessarily go with all the negative tests just because it just added another level of kind of confusion,” he said. “When was the test taken? All that kind of stuff.”

He said he’s happy the government is lifting the health order because it was an added burden on staff.

“Everything has to come to an end at some point, so we’re excited to kind of move on and keep doing what we’re doing, which is to serve people and to be hospitable.”

Steph Clovechuk, Tourism Saskatoon CEO, said the general consensus is that businesses want to get back to normal.

She said she wasn’t sure if businesses would see more or fewer customers — with no guarantee that patrons will be vaccinated or COVID-free.

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“What we can do is assure people that we will do everything that we can … to reduce any possible risk of transmission of COVID-19,” she told Global News.

When asked if they thought it was a good idea to remove the health order, and all other health orders, they both demurred, saying they’re not doctors.

Remaining public health orders include mandatory masking at some indoor buildings and a mandatory five-day minimum isolation for individuals who test positive for COVID-19.

Those, too, could come to an end on Feb. 28, when the public health order expires. Moe said on Tuesday the government is not looking at renewing it.

“Saskatchewan people, they know what’s required of them to find our way back to a normal environment. It involves regular testing and we have rapid tests available,” Moe said.

“It involves when you do test positive for COVID-19 you isolate yourself for a period of five days so that you’re not spreading COVID to other people and it’s our expectation that Saskatchewan people are going to continue to do … what they’ve been doing for quite a period of time now.”

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