REGINA -- Although COVID-19 cases are rising steadily in the south region of Saskatchewan, the province said it will not be implementing stricter restrictions in areas affected by a recent spike in cases.

Premier Scott Moe said the government will look to local Hutterite leadership to impose restrictions within their own communities, for the time being.

When similar localized outbreaks occurred in northern parts of the province, travel was restricted to affected areas. In this case, Moe said he is confident local leaders are taking action and that further government imposed restrictions are not necessary at the moment.

“Those powers are there and they will be used if it is required in certain areas of the province,” Moe said. “In saying that, it is always better to work with the local leaders on how we can contain this spread.”

The government is looking to take the same approach it did in the north; starting with community-led restrictions followed by provincial resources if needed.

Moe said ministers have been in contact with community leaders in most of the 17 affected communities identified by the government, to discuss self-imposed restrictions.

“They are very understanding of the threat that COVID-19 brings to their community, they are very understanding of the measures that they have taken, and ultimately we need to take to ensure that we can contain this virus,” Moe said.

Dr. Saqib Shahab, the province’s Chief Medical Health Officer, noted while transmission has spiked in some communities, many other Hutterite colonies have been able to limit the spread of the virus.

“Many colonies out of the 17 have had only one or two cases because they were quick,” Shahab said. “Everyone in the colony was well aware of the symptoms, they were quick to seek testing, isolate themselves and their immediate household, and then there’s no further transmission.”

“Even in a communal living setting there’s been more cases of success in limiting transmission.”

Moe said further restrictions will be looked into on a cases by case basis, depending on how the communities react. There is no defined time limit for how long communities take to enact their own restrictions before the government intervenes.

“There would be a few things that would have to occur in order for that to happen,” Moe said. “Blatantly and flagrantly not complying with the travel restrictions that we’re asking these colonies to put in place.”

Last week, the province asked anyone in areas at increased risk of COVID-19 transmission to restrict travel, including staying in home communities as much as possible, self isolating if unwell or if you have been in contact with anyone who has tested positive; and limiting interpersonal contacts and group gatherings.

Essential travel is allowed but is being limited to a small number of designated people in each community.