REGINA -- Starting on Thursday, all in-person City of Regina council and committee meetings will be suspended and will return to a virtual format following a vote made by Executive Committee on Wednesday.

Only the meeting chair and strictly essential staff will remain on site at city hall.

For the past several months, council and committee members have been meeting in Henry Baker Hall with masks and plexiglass in place between seats.

The decision comes after an increase in COVID-19 variant cases in Saskatchewan, specifically in the Regina area. The motion needed a unanimous vote to pass, which it received.

Councillor Bob Hawkins, who brought forward the emergency motion, said these are extreme circumstances.

“We’ve heard about the transmissibility. We’ve had death of young people in Regina recently. This is a dangerous situation,” Hawkins said. “I think it’s important we set an example to the community.”

“It just takes one person to make one mistake, for contact to be too close for one minute or less for this to spread throughout all of the people in this hall. I think what is required, because of these exceptional circumstances, are exceptional measures.”

Executive Committee decisions technically have to go before city council, and the city clerk said there will be a brief report given to council next week.

“Technically, according to legislation and the procedure bylaw, only council can make this decision but essentially it appears you’re all going to adhere to this, and the legislation and the procedure bylaw also allows us to have these kind of meetings virtually,” Jim Nicol, the city clerk, said addressing executive committee.

The change will remain in place until April 30.