Reduce activities by 'more than half' to curb spread of COVID-19, Sask.'s top doctor says

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With case numbers rising, Saskatchewan's chief medical health officer says everybody in the province needs to reduce their activity by "more than half" in order to curb the spread of COVID-19.

As an example, Dr. Saqib Shahab said someone going grocery shopping twice a week now should reduce that to once a week.

"Go like we were going in March and April … with a list, where you went and got what you needed," Shahab said during an interview Friday with CBC's The Morning Edition. "Same applies to restaurants and bars."

Shahab said people who support local businesses should continue to do so, but they should be going less frequently, and staying more than two metres apart from people outside of their household.

"The customers also need to behave very differently. We need to walk into a restaurant with our masks on," Shahab said. "Take our masks off when our food and drinks [are] served and if we want to stay for a while and chat, put our masks on again."

Shahab said if people do not reduce their activities the restrictions will have to get tighter.

On Saturday, the province announced its largest one-day increase in new COVID-19 cases to date, with 439 cases reported.

Premier Scott Moe called those numbers "very concerning." He said in a statement Saturday that the province is working closely with Shahab and will have more to say early next week about the possibility of further measures.

On Friday, Shahab said for now, the suggestion to reduce activity is a recommendation from the province.

Measures like restrictions on the number of people in businesses are part of the Re-Open Saskatchewan guidelines, which are "being revised as we speak."

"And then, of course, there's public health orders — so you know, like masks and other things like gathering sizes," Shahab said.

"They are not part of the guidelines — they are done as a public health order, which usually has a defined time period."

Shahab said provincial recommendations, Re-Open Saskatchewan guidelines and public health orders can all be used in a mutually supportive manner.

But some will need to change, he said.

With respect to sports like hockey, where teams travel and play without masks, some activities will have to be slowed down, Shahab said.

"For recreational sports, which are very important, at this point we're saying two teams play limited local [games]," he said. "If we can safely slow them down, that's preferable."

He also said there's no one sector to blame for the province's rising COVID-19 numbers.

"Worship places, bars, restaurants, sports — they're all contributing 10 to 20 cases a day," he said.

"If we close them down, there would be zero contribution [of new cases]. If we slow them down, then they're contributing three to five cases a day, for example. We can get back to under 60 [new cases per day]," Shahab said.

"The co-operation has to be from all of society — not just the business sector, but everyone who lives, works and plays in Saskatchewan."