The Saskatchewan government has no plans to reinstate indoor gathering size limits ahead of the Thanksgiving long weekend, despite recent calls from the Opposition NDP and health-care workers.
"The vast majority of new cases and hospitalizations are unvaccinated residents and those who are not vaccinated should get vaccinated," a government spokesperson wrote in an email Tuesday afternoon, pointing to safety tips in the province's weekly COVID-19 news release.
"If you are unvaccinated, you should not gather with family and friends this long weekend, as you are putting them at risk," the province suggested in the release.
The recommendations shared by the province include:
Meeting with people outdoors as much as possible.
Being aware of guests' vaccination status if gathering indoors, and keeping in mind kids under 12 — who cannot yet be vaccinated — have a higher risk of contracting the virus.
Remembering that sharing food and close quarters amplifies the risk of transmission.
Saskatchewan health officials recorded 242 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday and 10 more deaths linked to the virus.
A total of 340 people with COVID-19 were listed as hospitalized — 73 of them receiving intensive care. Seventy-six per cent of those in hospital were not fully vaccinated, the province said.
In a news conference Tuesday afternoon, Saskatchewan New Democrats demanded the province reinstate indoor gathering size limits as infection numbers continue to rise.
"We all want to celebrate with our families. We all want to have that time together. None of us want that celebration to be the last time we see a family member because they got sick," said Opposition NDP Leader Ryan Meili.
The NDP's calls for gathering sizes come after similar requests from the Saskatchewan Medical Association (SMA) and the Saskatchewan Union of Nurses (SUN).
"Without indoor gathering limits, COVID-19 will spread, and people will die," SUN president Tracy Zambory said in a news release last week.
"[Registered nurses] are upset. They are weary. I have heard their stories borne of anger, frustration, and fear for their patients. The government cannot ignore the pleas of the province's health care community any longer."
SMA president Dr. Eben Strydom added that mask mandates and vaccination requirements "are essential but are not enough" to completely curb the spread of the more transmissible delta variant.
"With the approach of colder weather, gatherings will move indoors, creating the potential for surges in cases," Strydom said in the release.
In addition to reinstating indoor gathering sizes, the SMA and SUN have asked the government to provide "more transparency" by making its modelling of COVID-19 projections public and adding more detailed vaccination data on the Ministry of Health's online dashboard.
"Physicians need to have information from the community in which they work," Strydom said. "The absence of local information makes the job of a physician that much more difficult in the best of times, let alone in the midst of an all-consuming pandemic."