NDP says Sask. Party held back on COVID-19 restrictions until after election

·5 min read

Saskatoon– The New Democratic Party (NDP) is alleging the Saskatchewan Party government has been holding back on measures to prevent the spread of COVDI-19 until after the election was over.

NDP Leader Ryan Meili spoke to reporters by zoom meeting from Saskatoon on Nov. 6. He said, “This is a government that, during the campaign, wouldn't tell us their real plans for cuts and privatization, and they didn't tell us what was really happening with COVID-19, and they didn't tell us their real plans for policy changes. Of course, they knew these numbers were coming. They had access to the public health information. They have access to the modeling that we should all have access to, but they wouldn't take any action until after the election endangering Saskatchewan people.”

Health Critic Vicki Mowat said, “They have had months to prepare for a second wave and have failed to do so. And it's unacceptable that we're hearing from folks right now that they're waiting 10 days for results, just to find out that they have tested positive when they were only told to self-monitor. This is how COVID-19 spreads, not how we stop it. We know that people on the front lines are working as hard as they can, but they don't have the resources they need to be able to test the capacity we need.”

Meili said, “During the election, we called for an immediate injection of $50 million into health and education, to help protect the public during this time of COVID-19. We've asked for action on class sizes. we see now that the Sask. Party has said, the government is saying a reduction of gatherings to 10 people, and yet we're still sending kids into classrooms with 30, 35 kids or more. We need immediate action to reduce the size of gatherings in our schools as well.”

On the usage of masks, Meili said, “We've asked for action and clarity on masks and nothing until now, after the election, and we still don't have clarity of enforcement. We still have only three locations. It's not clear that those are necessarily the right locations and only places that should be having mandatory indoor mask use.”

Asked about those people who say that COVID-19 numbers are still going up in places where mask usage has been implemented, Meili responded, “The science is clear. Masks prevent the transmission of COVID-19. Not 100 per cent. And that’s why they are not the only thing to do, but they are very important measure of protecting each other. And what I would say to folks who are resistant, who are reluctant, and I understand it's a big change it's an inconvenience, but that this is something we do for each other, and that this is a time to recognize viruses … don't discriminate, they will they will attack anyone. It is a time for us to take care of each other to understand that we are all in this together and that wearing a mask is a pretty small thing to ask to keep those around us safe.”

Meili referenced rising active case counts in Alberta and Manitoba. Asked about North Dakota, which posted 1,764 new cases on Nov. 6 after posting 1,540 cases on Nov. 5, Meili said, “It's extremely disturbing watching what's going on in North Dakota, Montana and throughout the United States; extremely disturbing. And we have seen a government down there that has been very irresponsible under President Trump and, and I think it's good news that it looks like he won't be the president anymore.

“But we also are seeing down there, what can happen here. We're at an earlier point in the curve, but that's very possible right here in Saskatchewan. And that's why we need a government that's actually paying attention to this. It isn't acting like they're doing a victory lap, but it's actually understanding that we're early on in this and it still needs, serious work.”

Asked if he was saying the Sask. Party delayed bringing in mask mandates and restrictions on certain businesses until after the election because it was politically convenient, Meili replied, “They knew what they were going to have to do. They knew what the numbers were doing, and they haven't actually shared the full information yet. And this is what we're asking for today.

“What's exactly happening? What's the truth of COVID-19 and Saskatchewan today? What does the modeling show for the number of cases in the weeks and months ahead? The number of hospitalizations, for the number of deaths? We saw that back in the spring, where's that been now for months on end?

“What's happening with that R-zero (R0) number that we talked about so much, and the rate of transmission? And what are the measures that will make the difference? We see other provinces put that up and say these actions will reduce that rate of transmission by a certain amount. We see none of that information from this government. We need open, transparent, honest government, and we haven't seen that from Scott Moe.”

He said this is a government that hasn’t wanted to bother anyone, “but as a result, doing what’s politically convenient was politically easy. They put us at a greater risk of more people getting sick and losing their lives.”

Saskatchewan put out COVID-19 modelling in April that projected much higher infection rates and hospitalizations than what is currently being seen. Meili said, “We’ve learned a great deal since April. We know that COVID-19 treatment has advanced considerably. We've learned more about the virus; exactly why we need to see what the modeling says today, what's happening with the new R0, the new transmission rates, in terms of what we're likely to see for cases, as well as what impact that will have on hospitals and on mortality.”

Brian Zinchuk, Local Journalism Initiative reporter, Estevan Mercury