Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe announced Thursday that the province will implement mandatory masking, a proof of vaccination policy and a requirement for government employees to be vaccinated or receive negative tests.
Moe made the announcement in a video posted to his social media Thursday morning.
The provincial mask policy, which will apply to all indoor public spaces, begins Friday and Moe said the province aims to lift it in late October. The proof of vaccination policy will begin on October 1 and will apply to establishments, businesses and event venues.
“Sadly, today we are facing a fourth wave,” Moe said in the video, noting that it is being driven “largely” by unvaccinated people.
“We have been very patient – perhaps too patient – but the time for patience is over.”
He said those who are not vaccinated “create consequences for others”.
“The vast majority of people in Saskatchewan have done the right thing and are fed up with the reckless decisions of the unvaccinated that are now causing our fourth wave.
Moe said government employees in departments, crowns and agencies will be required to provide proof of vaccination by Oct. 1 or provide consistent negative tests.
Moe and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr Saqib Shahab provided an update on the province’s response to COVID-19 on Thursday afternoon.
Saskatchewan had the highest per capita case rates in a seven-day period as of Thursday, and the second lowest vaccination rates among the provinces.
Alberta, which shares similar high case rates and the lowest vaccination rates in the country, declared a public state of emergency on Wednesday and introduced several health policies aimed at reducing the spread of COVID-19 and to increase vaccinations.
The government said mandatory interior masking, which begins Friday, includes all interior public spaces. Private homes or living spaces are exempt.
Young people who play sports do not have to wear a mask when participating in their activity.
The mandate will include areas of a company or areas reserved for personnel only.
“Wearing a mask immediately stops transmission,” Shahab said, warning people not to go to gatherings without a mask.
He said the impact of masking on hospitalizations would be visible in four to six weeks.
Proof of vaccination
As of October 1, the government will require proof of vaccination or a negative test to access various public places, including:
- Dining in the restaurants.
- Nightclubs, bars, taverns and other licensed establishments.
- Event and entertainment venues, including conference centers, casinos, cinemas, concert halls, concert halls, museums, and indoor facilities hosting paid sporting events.
- Indoor fitness centers and gymnasiums.
The government will not require proof of vaccination for:
- Retail businesses, including grocery stores.
- Places of worship.
- Fast food offering take-out and delivery meals.
- Health care services, professional services or personal services.
- Hotels or other accommodation.
- Facilities hosting non-ticketed amateur sporting events, including youth track and field leagues and recreational leagues.
- Business meetings and places of business closed to the general public, unless otherwise specified by the company or employer.
- Private gatherings organized in a covered public residence.
Children under 12 are exempt from proof of vaccination or negative tests.
The government said it was developing protocols on proof of negative test requirements.
Government employee vaccination mandate
As of October 1, all ministry, crown and agency employees must be fully immunized or provide a negative COVID test in a “consistent” manner.
The government has said it is “encouraging” other employers, including school divisions, to implement similar policies for staff.
“Things are at a critical moment”
Shahab said the provincial health care system is approaching a point where patients will not have access to hospital beds, whether they are suffering from COVID-19 or having a heart attack.
“Things are at a critical juncture,” he said.
He also encouraged people to get vaccinated, highlighting the impact on children who cannot be vaccinated. Shahab said 98% of children who tested positive lived in a household with unvaccinated people.
In the past three weeks, COVID-19-related hospitalizations and intensive care unit (ICU) admissions have doubled in Saskatchewan and active cases have increased two and a half times.
“Our system is currently on the brink. There are literally no intensive care beds in the whole province, ”Regina’s Dr. Alexander Wong said Wednesday.
Last week, Moe announced mandatory vaccination or proof of a negative test for health workers, reintroduced mandatory isolation for positive cases and close contacts who are not vaccinated, and said surgeries and other health procedures would be affected by COVID-19 care needs.
The government has previously refused to introduce a provincial mask warrant or proof of vaccination policy, although provincial medical officers of health requested them on August 26.
Last week, Moe said the health measures were a “stopgap” meant to fill the province until vaccines are available and the majority of the province is vaccinated.
Moe said he believed getting vaccinated was a choice and that having to get vaccinated was “divisive” and would create “two classes of citizens.”
On Monday, the province signed an emergency order to redirect healthcare workers.
“If we are in a state of emergency, we must act on it,” said Tracy Zambory, president of the Saskatchewan Union of Nurses (SUN).
“This government is putting the brunt of the pandemic on healthcare workers and they have other options they could consider to reduce those numbers,” echoed Sandra Seitz, president of Local 5430 of the Canadian Union of Health Workers. the public service (CUPE).