REGINA -- Premier Scott Moe said on Monday the province may make masks mandatory to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

Moe said the measure would only be necessary if needed. He encouraged people to wear a mask in places where they can’t physically distance and if they feel comfortable wearing one.

“There may be a point in time, either on a regional basis or maybe even province-wide, where we will have to go to wearing masks as a mandatory matter,” Moe said. “I would far sooner want to have that conversation prior to shutting down our economy.”

There have been growing calls for Saskatchewan to make wearing a mask mandatory in public spaces.

A petition has recently urged the provincial government to impose the measures, given many other Canadian cities have enacted the rule.

Moe suggested that as people return indoors during the colder months, the province may need to look at imposing stricter mask-use measures.

“We’re going to go back in, and we’re going to get cold again, and that is when we really need to be very careful with the public health guidelines and recommendations to ensure we don’t have some challenging numbers,” he said.

“That may be a conversation where we may be more aggressive with respect to the recommendation on mask usage, a little more current with the conversation around mandatory mask usage in the province.”

He said there is still a ways to go before the pandemic ends.

“This is a marathon and not a sprint, and we have some months ahead of us,” he said.

Saskatchewan Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab said people need to ensure they have a mask on hand. He has recommended people where one in situations where they can’t physically distance.

“I think we need to practice this as a behavior for now for the next weeks to months,” Shahab said.