NDP Leader Ryan Meili said Saskatchewan lacks clear guidance on COVID-19 as cases across the province continue to rise.
He criticized Saskatchewan Party Leader Scott Moe for how he has handled the pandemic, particularly during the first few months, during a virtual press conference on Thanksgiving Monday. Meili also pitched how his party would handle COVID-19 if elected, citing better guidelines — like transparent thresholds for restrictions, and capping class sizes.
"One of the things we've never had from the [Sask.] Party is a clear set of thresholds: when would they expect to introduce mandatory masks, when would we see changes in what businesses or other facilities are open," Meili said.
Meili said the thresholds that would dictate when outbreaks would trigger increased restrictions should be publicly laid out, so people can understand what COVID-19 activity is seen as expected versus concerning.
Outbreaks declared, cases growing
Saskatchewan's overall numbers remain low compared to other provinces, but the province has reported 106 new cases in the last three days with 48 new cases noted on Monday. The numbers of cases linked to public and private social gatherings in homes and other venues are growing, according to the Saskachewan Health Authority.
In October, outbreaks have been declared at multiple schools, a retirement facility in Saskatoon, a manufacturing centre in Gerald, a bank and a transportation company in Estevan.
There is also a multi-jurisdictional outbreak stemming from Prince Albert's Full Gospel Outreach Centre. People connected to the centre said they had been unaware of provincial guidelines advising against singing and requiring those who do to wear masks.
Meili called on Moe to send stronger messages about the importance of wearing a mask as numbers rise, repeating his message that the province has done well despite of Moe's leadership not because of it.
"It is really important that people in leadership roles role model and show people that commitment to safety."
Sask. Party Leader Scott Moe responded in a statement saying "it is extremely disappointing that Mr. Meili would try to politicize Saskatchewan's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Saskatchewan has been successful in controlling the spread of COVID-19, not due to 'luck' as Mr. Meili is suggesting, but due to the collective efforts of Saskatchewan people.
"At every step, our government has followed the guidance of public health officials including Dr. Shahab and his team, and we have taken every opportunity to reinforce their clear guidance on the actions Saskatchewan people should take to protect themselves and others. We will continue to do so."
Moe concluded that it was "sad" that Meili is "trying to undermine public confidence in this guidance in an attempt to score political points."
After the COVID-19 surge was reported Monday, Moe released a public statement asking people to be "especially vigilant in the days ahead."
"Keep physically distancing, wear a mask when distancing may not be possible, wash your hands often, stay home if you are feeling unwell at all, avoid any unnecessary out of province travel and try to limit your number of close contacts as much as possible," Moe said in the statement.
"Keep public gatherings under 30 people and even less than that if you don't have room to physically distance. Self-isolate when required to do so. If you don't, the virus can spread quickly."
On Sunday, the Sask. Party confirmed that Moe and his staff held a campaign event inside a Prince Albert business that was linked to a COVID-19 exposure. Moe is self-monitoring, but in accordance with current health guidelines has not been tested. The party said he will do so if he starts experiencing symptoms.
Both the NDP and the Sask. Party will continue to hold in-person campaign events with COVID-19 precautions in place. There are two weeks left on the campaign trail, including a leaders' debate on Wednesday. The provincial election is Oct. 26.