'Not just a health response': Sask.'s top doctor reflects on mitigating COVID-19
REGINA -- Saskatchewan’s Chief Medical Health Officer has been at the centre of local efforts to manage COVID-19. As a physician with more than two decades of experience, Dr. Saqib Shahab said leading the province in a fight against a pandemic has been “humbling."
“My role was to provide the best public health advice,” Shahab said in a sit down interview with CTV News Regina. “But obviously the government had a role to support the response both in terms of health system being able to cope with an influx of cases, but also to be ready for a large surge, but more importantly, what actions can the government support for Saskatchewan residents to take slow the transmission."
In January, with the threat of COVID-19 looming, Shahab started to prepare for the virus like he had for SARS in 2003.
It wasn’t long before Shahab knew this virus was going to be different to manage.
“We then planned to not just contain it or put it back in the box but to manage it and mitigate it,” Shahab said. “It was not just a health response but a government response."
Shahab said when COVID-19 appeared in Saskatchewan the decision to send kids home from school and to close all non-essential businesses was not made lightly.
“Hindsight is 20-20, but I think the government went in at the right time, went in very quickly,” Shahab said. “Within a week we had gone into almost a complete slow down of non-essential services.”
Shahab was born in Britain. When he was young his mother passed away and the family moved to Pakistan, where he began his formal education. He returned to Britain for more schooling and eventually moved to the United States where his studies continued.
Shahab’s first job in Canada was in Yorkton.
“Coming to Saskatchewan actually gave me the time, to find more time for your family but for yourself,” he said. “Certainly reading, watching a nice movie or nice show, its always something that I enjoy.”
Shahab says the COVID-19 pandemic has “brought time” with it too, meaning people have more time to connect with each other.
“For some reason people are reaching out,” Shahab said. “Its quite interesting actually how this whole crisis in some ways brings people closer together both where you're living but also globally.”
Shahab said the next challenge for him is reopening the province, but looking back to the decisions that have already been made, he is confident and ready for the task.