Regina– In time for the Canada Day holiday, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe announced on June 30 some of the last stages of re-opening the provincial economy after the lockdown brought on by the COVID-19 crisis.
There were six new cases of COVID-19 and five recoveries in Saskatchewan on June 30, continuing a downward trend. Saskatchewan had 88 active cases.
While larger events like Roughrider games might not yet be in the cards, casinos, bowling alleys and bingo halls can open on specified dates, and restaurants and bars will no longer be restricted to 50 per cent capacity. They will, however, have to ensure distancing measures are in place.
Moe said, “This Monday, July 6, all indoor recreational facilities including rinks, indoor swimming pools and bowling alleys can reopen. All indoor sports and activities can begin.
“Also on July 6, we're removing the 50 per cent capacity limit on restaurants and bars. While there will be no specific percentage occupancy cap, bars and restaurants will still need to maintain an occupancy level that maintains safe physical distancing for customers and for their staff.
“On the same date, bars and restaurants can reopen their VLT machines and recreational areas such as pool tables, video games, and darts.”
On July 9, bingo halls and casinos can open. Each casino will have a cap on attendance. On July 16, restaurants and bars can have live entertainment.
“A number of remaining outdoor sports activities can start with a limited number of spectators,” Moe said. This includes rodeos, barrel racing and stock car racing. Further guidelines will be released soon.
“With these reopening virtually every kind of business facility service and activity in this province are now reopened.
“I want to thank everyone in Saskatchewan for everything that you've done to control the spread of COVID-19. So we appreciate it. I want to thank you for your patience as well as we moved as quickly as possible, but also as safely as possible through the reopening timeline. And I want to encourage everyone to continue all of the good practices that have gotten us this far.”
Moe went on, “With case numbers still rising in many other parts of the world, we know that COVID-19 has not disappeared. And it can spread very quickly if we let our guard down, even for a moment. And that's why we still have to remain so careful. And why we will need to move forward very cautiously with Phase 5, which is lifting the restrictions on large gatherings. We know that in Saskatchewan and elsewhere, large gatherings have resulted in some of the largest outbreaks. So we will need to be very cautious in relaxing those restrictions.”
Visitation changes coming
In regard to restrictions on visitations, Moe said, “I also want to mention that our government and the Health Authority are working on new guidelines to provide a greater opportunity to visit your loved ones in long term care and those who may be in the hospital. We still have to be very careful in those facilities as that is where some of the most dangerous outbreaks in our nation and around the world have occurred. So we are working to find the right balance that will keep everyone safe, while recognizing how critically important it is for hospital patients and our seniors in our long-term care homes to be able to see members of their family, and we expect an announcement on this later this week.”
Saskatchewan’s Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab emphasized keeping track on an ongoing basis of what you’ve done over the last two weeks. If there’s a public service announcement or you come down with symptoms, you can seek testing. He said clusters of infection will arise now and then, but seeking testing if unwell, maintaining distancing and wearing a mask will help.
Shahab noted the size of public gatherings is the remaining limit. Sizes of gatherings will continue to be looked at.
With regards to wearing a mask, Moe said, “I've always said that if you are comfortable and feel more comfortable wearing a mask, in particular, if you're not able to abide by the physical distancing standards, you should do so and we should all be supportive of individuals that choose to do so. It does help.
“Mask usage, as far as it being mandatory, may be a conversation that we may have to have in certain areas of the province if we should have a localized outbreak. We haven't had to yet but, for instance, that would be something that I think we would want to have a very active discussion about prior to having to take more drastic action like closing sectors of the community, playgrounds, recreational activities, and ultimately, last, but potentially a conversation in localized areas around you know, businesses having to close for a short period of time, we don't want to get there.”
He said there may be an opportunity in those localized areas to require temporary mandatory mask-wearing.
Asked if he wears a mask, Moe said he had one given to him by the Premier of Quebec, featuring a Montreal Canadiens logo. He planned on giving that to one of his nephews, a Habs fan, and getting a Riders mask instead, and sending one to Premier François Legault.