Saskatchewan's government is introducing new public health measures for Regina and area, as the number of COVID-19 and coronavirus variant cases continues to rise.
Restaurants and bars will be closed to indoor dining starting on Sunday. Takeout and delivery orders will be allowed.
Event venues will also be closed starting Sunday. That includes banquet and community halls, arts venues, museums, libraries, live theatres, cinemas, arcades, bowling alleys, science centres or any "non-essential indoor locations that had limits of 30 individuals," the province said.
"The rise of the variant cases means we have to continue to be extremely cautious," Premier Scott Moe said during a news conference on Tuesday. "We are going to get to the end of this pandemic, we just aren't there yet."
The Saskatchewan Small Business Emergency Payment will be extended to those businesses affected by the most recent measures. And federal supports are available to workers whose jobs are impacted, Moe said.
Starting immediately, private indoor gatherings in Regina and area are prohibited to a person's household only. This means Regina and area residents cannot expand their household "bubbles."
People who live alone and single parents of minor children are permitted to meet with one designated household of less than five people. Co-parenting arrangements are allowed to continue.
Caregivers, support personnel and workers who are not a member of the household are not included in the maximum number of people allowed in that household.
The Regina and District Chamber of Commerce said it supports the partial shutdown. It said the measures should ensure people are as safe as possible while keeping most of the economy open.
"Clearly this was a difficult decision to make, but it needed to be made," Chamber CEO John Hopkins said in a statement.
The new rules are in place for the Queen City and surrounding areas including:
RM of Lajord.
RM of Edenwold,.
RM of Sherwood.
RM of Pense.
RM of Lumsden.
The province is also issuing a work-from-home recommendation. It said anyone who can work from home should do so.
For the past several weeks, the majority of public service and crown employees have been working from home and the province said it has reinforced this direction to all ministry and Crown heads.
The province has also issued a travel advisory for Regina and its surrounding communities. Travel is not recommended in or out of the Regina region unless it's absolutely necessary.
"We're asking you to not enter or leave the city just to simply shop," Moe said.
The public health order will be in place until April 5, when it will be reviewed by the province.
"It's very likely that they may have to be extended at that point in time," Moe said of the April 5 deadline.
Regina will shutter libraries, rec centres: Masters
Regina Mayor Sandra Masters said in her talks with the province, it was clear that while the situation was difficult, the measures had to be put in place. She said the city will close its libraries and recreational facilities starting on Sunday as well.
"It felt like we were kind of coming out of it … with the vaccine supply being in place," Masters said. "This is an enormous wake-up call and really unfortunate. This is hard on people."
The mayor said she's asking for just a few more weeks of diligence to bring numbers down.
"We're encouraging people who are going to go outdoors … remain really with your family bubble. And if you can wear a mask, if you're going to be around other people still socially, just make sure your hands are washed."
Goal is to slow spread, not reach zero cases: Moe
Dr. Saqib Shahab, the province's chief medical health officer, said the main group contracting COVID-19 right now is adults working outside of the home, but others are affected too.
"Even though thankfully, long-term care residents are not being impacted that much, the case numbers are trending up, impacting all age groups," Shahab said during Tuesday's news conference.
When asked why churches and gyms won't be closed as well, Moe said the new health measures aren't intended to change the trend of cases, not necessarily to stop the spread completely.
"The goal is to just slow things down ... slow down the point of contact that people have in their daily affairs," Moe said.
"They are not to bring the spread down in Regina to zero ... what these are in place for is what we hope will be a very short period of time — weeks, not months — so that we can change the trajectory."
Shahab said at places that are still open, people need to be "doubly diligent."