Saskatoon– New Democratic Party (NDP) Leader Ryan Meili and Health Critic Vicki Mowat were not impressed with the new measures announced by the provincial government on Nov. 13 meant to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Mowat said, “I can't say that, as health critic, I knew exactly what I was expecting, but I was expecting more than nothing. And there's nothing in this that will reduce the rate of transmission. They are, again, pretending that they have a plan. It's like there's half-measures or quarter-measures, I don't even know what to call it. It's the minimum measures that they possibly could have taken; such a clear lack of leadership here.
“And most clearly, to me, they're not telling us what's going on. And they're not bringing forth those modeling numbers. It is a complete lack of leadership.,” Mowat said via a Zoom press conference the afternoon of Nov. 13, a few hours after the most recent announcement by the health minister of COVID-19 restrictions.
Meili said, “People across Saskatchewan are really worried as the COVID case numbers are rising. As we see what's going on in Manitoba, and Alberta. In North Dakota, we know what path we're on. And people are expecting something different today,” Meili said.
He referenced a letter signed earlier in the week, signed by over 400 doctors, calling on the province to do more.
“We've heard from doctors, pharmacists, nurses from the general public, people are rightly concerned about the path that we're on. Now, several days of hundreds of cases, new cases added to our total, we’ve got more people in our ICUs. And we know that's only going to climb in the days ahead. And to describe the response to today's announcement, when people expected to see some change, people expected to see a government willing to take this seriously and take some responsibility, to describe that as disappointment would be a huge understatement.
“Because this was a deeply dishonest announcement from (Health Minister) Paul Merriman today. There was no action that would make a difference. There is no real change in the current plans, and no lives will be saved as a result of today's announcement.”
“That's how poor this is, a response to this very serious situation. Minor changes in masks. Minor changes in what time people can stop drinking, telling schools to change what level they're at, with still no supports to do that, still no guidance, and still no resources to reduce class sizes. It's a complete and utter failure.”
He noted that Merriman, who is new to the Health portfolio as of this week, could have acted differently that the previous minister, Jim Reiter.
Meili said the province needs to release current modelling numbers, saying, “They're not telling us what the rate of transmission is that are not, that's so important to understand just how badly This is spreading. And they're not telling us how these measures are, what other measures are available would reduce the number of interactions, which we know is what makes a difference in how quickly this virus spread.”
Meili asked, “What are you hiding from the public when are you refused to share what you know In the modeling?”
Chief medical officer of health Dr. Saqib Shahab said during the government press conference on Nov. 13 that he could bring presentations on an epidemiological update and a modelling update next week.
Meili continued, “Instead, they put out a statement that blame the public, accused people of not following the rules, and did nothing serious to change the reality that we're facing.
“This is not a serious and not an honest announcement.
“What do we need to do instead? Let's listen to the experts around the country. Let's talk to those other provinces that are weeks ahead of us, and wish they'd done differently. Let's talk to them and hear what's possible. Let's right away, have a clear mask rule across the province. The virus doesn't respect town limits. It also doesn't care what time you stopped drinking or what time you go to bed. Let's have clear rules and clear actions to make sure masks are available and used across the province. Let's ramp up testing in a big way. Testing and tracing is key. We still have people waiting more than a week before between asking for a test and getting result.
“And let's support our schools, now. We want schools up to Phase 3. How are they going to do that? How are they going to reduce class sizes without a government that will even acknowledge our classrooms are overcrowded, let alone bring in the resources to do this.”
“There are more things that we need to do,” Meili said when asked if he was calling for a lockdown.
Regarding Premier Scott Moe’s absence at the press conference, Meili said, “He didn't want to come and stand up beside this nothing of an announcement and he decided to stay away.”
“Anything is better than what we saw today, no action is not reasonable answer,” Meili said.
Brian Zinchuk, Local Journalism Initiative reporter, Estevan Mercury