'The uncertainty is great': Sask. reviewing guidelines for restaurants, gyms, places of worship
REGINA -- The Saskatchewan government has announced it’s reviewing guidelines for the hospitality industry, gyms and places of worship.
The review comes after cases of COVID-19 have surged in the province. On Tuesday, the province reported 240 new cases and 2,055 active cases.
In a news release, the government said it will be consulting with the hospitality industry, athletic organizations, fitness business owners and faith leaders about ways they can mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
The province said it wants to know how current guidelines can be enhanced, adding that many of these businesses are taking measures seriously.
“We’ll be watching the numbers closely, and if they (increase), we will have to look at additional measures in some of these areas,” said Premier Scott Moe during a news conference. “We are going to do everything we can in the meantime and provide every opportunity for businesses to stay open in a safe manner.”
Some have called for the province to implement a short shutdown of all activities to get a grip on the increasing case numbers.
Others, however, have said a shutdown would further harm businesses in Saskatchewan.
Moe said the province may have to consider a lockdown in the near future if cases continue to rise.
He suggested he didn’t want a lockdown now because it would negatively affect jobs.
“We would lose permanently tens of thousands of jobs in the province,” Moe said, adding that the province hasn’t re-couped 15,000 jobs that were lost after the first shutdown in the spring.
As well, he said Manitoba decided to lock down when new cases hovered around 500 per day. Saskatchewan is about two to three weeks behind Manitoba’s case count, he added.
“Our goal is to bend the curve prior to Christmas and avoid that lockdown,” he said. “We are going to use every tool in the toolbox to avoid a lockdown.”
Moe acknowledged he could not provide as much certainty as he would like for businesses.
He said he wished he could provide detailed thresholds of what the province would do should cases reach a certain point.
“I wish we could put forward those numbers and say, if this happens, here’s the reaction,” he said. “Unfortunately we don’t know what the Covid numbers are going to be in the days ahead, we don’t know what the hospitalizations are going to be in the days ahead … the uncertainty is great and I wish I could provide more.”
In a news release, NDP Health Critic Vicki Mowat said the government’s approach in handling the pandemic has confused people.
For instance, she noted, masks weren’t mandatory for all of Saskatchewan until Tuesday. The government had phased in mask use, first with major cities and then to smaller communities.
“Constantly shifting the goal posts is not helpful,” Mowat said.
She said the province needs to act now.
“In the face of the alarming rise in cases and the pressures on our hospitals, the Sask. Party saying they will review further measures instead of taking action is nowhere near enough," Mowat said. "The government has had nearly nine months for consultation.”