First phase of re-opening Sask. economy to begin on May 4
REGINA -- The first of five phases to re-open the province of Saskatchewan is set to begin on May 4.
Premier Scott Moe and Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab presented the Re-open Saskatchewan Plan on Thursday morning.
Saskatchewan is the first province to announce plans to lift restrictions and re-open its economy.
“Some will be concerned that this is far too soon,” Moe said at a press conference on Thursday.
But, he says he’s confident in the plan, since many essential businesses have remained open throughout the pandemic, with new practices to make sure staff and customers are safe.
“We have flattened the curve even as these businesses have remained open,” Moe said. “This gives us confidence that Saskatchewan businesses can re-open and keep their customers safe by maintaining similar practices across the sector.”
The plan will “methodically, gradually and cautiously re-open businesses” across the province. It also details physical distancing measures and restrictions that will stay in place for several more months.
There are some long-term restrictions that will remain in place, including school closures, visitor restrictions at some health-care facilities, travel restrictions and mandatory self-isolation orders.
“Over the next several weeks, restrictions will be gradually lifted by adding more types of businesses to the allowable businesses list, meaning that they can re-open if they so choose,” Moe said. “All businesses and public venues will be required to continue following physical distancing and cleaning and disinfection practices to protect both employees and customers. Members of the public will be expected to follow physical distancing rules and to stay home if they are experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms.”
Re-opening the Saskatchewan economy is broken down into five phases:
- Phase one: May 4
- Phase two: May 19
- Phase three: Date TBA
- Phase four: Date TBA
- Phase five: Date TBA
Moe says the dates of the later phases will be determined through monitoring COVID-19 cases in the prior phases.
“We would like to see no increase when people are engaging in other shared activities,” Shahab said Thursday. “If we do see transmission in those settings, we need to control that quickly. We want to learn from that and provide continuous feedback.”
Closely monitoring new cases
As the province moves through each of the five phases, Moe and Shahab said they will closely monitor the spread of COVID-19 in Saskatchewan.
However, new cases won’t necessarily be linked to re-opening the economy.
“We need to continue to learn from what we see,” Shahab said.
Ultimately, decisions on moving forward with new phases will depend on where the cases are coming from.
“If we find those cases are traced back to one business or suite of businesses, we would look into honing in on that particular business,” Moe said. “The answer isn’t as simple as, if there’s a spike in numbers, would it go into hiatus. The answer to understand precisely why the spike in numbers is there, where it’s coming from and how we can address it.”
Shahab added that a lot of the decisions were made so that people can enjoy the warming temperatures and start to return to normal.
“This is a marathon, not a sprint,” he said.
Sask. first province to announce re-opening plan
Moe said he’s been in contact with other premiers about his plan to re-open Saskatchewan. He says the other provinces are paying close attention to his plan.
“We’re all in different places when it comes to how COVID-19 has been dealt with and what the results have ultimately been,” Moe said. “We’re a very diverse nation coast-to-coast and that should surprise no one that we got into this at different stages and we’ll be coming out of it at different stages.”
Moe also commended Saskatchewan residents for following public health orders and keeping the curve flat.
“We are as prepared as any jurisdiction can be,” he said.
Phase one: May 4
The first phase of the plan will re-open medical services restricted under the current public health order. The province will also allow low-risk outdoor recreational actives, like fishing and boating, golf courses and campgrounds on fixed dates throughout the coming months. Public and private gatherings will still be capped at a maximum of 10 people.
As of May 4, Saskatchewan residents will be able to access dentistry, optometry, physical therapy, occupational therapy and chiropractic treatment. Health-care providers will need to follow precautionary measures if physical distancing isn’t possible.
However, the province says the re-opening plan doesn’t include services offered by the Saskatchewan Health Authority. Resuming elective surgeries, diagnostics and other non-essential services will be considered separately from the plan announced on Thursday.
Fishing and boat launches will open May 4, golf courses on May 15 and campgrounds on June 1. Physical distancing measures will remain in place.
Phase two: May 19
The second phase of the re-opening plan includes retail businesses and some personal services.
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The province says size restrictions on gatherings will remain the same.
Phase three: Date TBA
The final three phases of the re-opening plan don’t have dates assigned.
The third phase will come into effect “following an evaluation of transmission patterns of COVID-19.”
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In this phase, remaining personal services will be available. Front-facing services at restaurants, gyms, bars and childcare centres will open their doors. The province says there will be some capacity limits, including restaurants and bars operating at 50 per cent capacity.
Businesses and customers will need to follow physical distancing guidelines.
Public gathering limits will increase to 15 people under phase three.
Phase four: Date TBA
The fourth phase of the Re-open Saskatchewan Plan will allow indoor and outdoor recreation and entertainment facilities to open for business again.
This phase doesn’t have a set date and will come into effect after health officials evaluate the spread of COVID-19 in the province.
Gatherings will have a capacity of 30 people under the fourth phase.
Phase five: Date TBA
The fifth phase will include lifting all long-term restrictions in the economy.
The province doesn’t have a set date for this final phase.
Monitoring the transmission of COVID-19
As each phase of the plan comes into effect, the province says health officials will be monitoring COVID-19 cases very closely. Daily case numbers and other factors will guide when restrictions will be lifted, or if any restrictions need to be put back into place.
The province says it will make sure transmission of the virus is controlled, health system capacities are in place to test, isolate, treat and contact trace every COVID-19 case, outbreaks are minimized, preventative measures remain in place, importation risks are managed and communities are engaged to adjust to their new normal.
There will also be clear guidance for Saskatchewan residents on current public health orders and any changes to restrictions.
Some long-term restrictions to remain in place
The province says certain measures related to high-risk areas will continue for the foreseeable future.
The provincial state of emergency, called by the premier on March 18, is still in place. Health officials still recommend against non-essential international or interprovincial travel. Anyone returning from international travel will need to self-isolate for 14 days. The same self-isolation period is required for anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19 or been in close contact with someone who tested positive.
Visitors to Saskatchewan Health Authority facilities are still only allowed for compassionate reasons.
Public and private schools and post-secondary classes are still suspended.
Large gatherings are still not allowed.
Recommendations as restrictions lift
As restrictions are slowly lifted in Saskatchewan, the province says it will focus on protecting vulnerable populations. Anyone who can work from home should continue to do so, and residents should stay home if they are sick.
Physical distancing measures should stay in place whenever possible. Seniors and people with underlying health conditions should exercise caution and minimize high-risk activities like public outings.
Personal hygiene like proper hand washing is still key to prevent the spread of the virus, the province says. Enhanced cleaning and disinfecting protocols should be in place at all workplaces, public spaces and gyms.
The public heath order on gathering sizes doesn’t apply to workplaces, but the province says businesses should still follow public health measures and maintain proper physical distancing between employees and clients whenever possible.
Read the plan here: