Saskatchewan premier wants provinces to co-ordinate on COVID-19 restrictions

REGINA — Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe says having a patchwork of rules across the provinces isn't helpful in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.

Saskatchewan reported 14 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, bringing the provincial total to 66.

Moe told a news conference that further restrictions on public life are likely to come down as the infection rate continues to climb.

He was set to speak to other premiers and the prime minister later Monday and planned to raise whether restrictions between provinces can be aligned.

Different premiers have been moving at different paces, Moe said, and he wants to know if there can be more co-ordination.

"Is there a opportunity through our federal government, with our federal government and all of the premiers on the phone to ... align our restrictions and provide that clarity for all Canadians?" 

Moe also addressed the provincial government's decision to overrule its capital's own declaration on dealing with COVID-19.

Regina's mayor, Michael Fougere, wants the province to shutter all non-essential retail businesses and limit gatherings to no more than five people, as has been done in some other jurisdictions.

Regina city council approved the restrictions in a declaration last week, but Fougere says the province overruled it in favour of its own orders to ensure uniformity throughout the province.

He had hoped the Saskatchewan government would follow Regina's lead.

Moe has said no more than 25 people should be in the same place at once, except where two-metre distancing between them can be maintained. As well, rules closing restaurants and recreational facilities and limiting daycares to a maximum of eight children came into effect Monday.

The province should move faster on putting more crowd restrictions in place, Fougere says.

"Speed trumps perfection in many ways," he said at a news conference Monday.

"We need to grapple with this sooner rather than later. It's not something we can look at next week or a month after that. We have to do it right now."

The province's chief medical health officer said Monday there's still no evidence of community transmission and most of Saskatchewan's cases are travel-related.

But Dr. Saqib Shahab says the province is at a critical point for preventing the virus's spread and urged people to stay at home and avoid any unnecessary gatherings.

Last week, Moe gave police the authority to make arrests or hand out $2,000 fines if people do not self-isolate for the required 14 days after returning from international travel.  

A spokeswoman for police in Saskatoon says the service had received some calls, but no fines or arrests had been made.  

In Regina, police reminded people on Twitter to stay at home after officers found more than 30 people at a house party.

Opposition NDP Leader Ryan Meili, who was self-isolating last week with his family after his wife developed a cough, says he was no longer doing so because she tested negative for COVID-19.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 23, 2020

Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press