How the Saskatchewan government's response to COVID-19 changed over 10 days

The speed at which life has changed in Saskatchewan would be hard to overstate.

"We need to recognize how serious this is," said Health Minister Jim Reiter Friday afternoon, just after Premier Scott Moe announced significant measures and restrictions attempting to limit the spread of COVID-19 in Saskatchewan.

These measures included giving law enforcement the authority to ensure the orders of the province's chief medical health officer be followed.

It was the latest development in a rapidly shifting landscape in the province.

Week 1

On Wednesday, March 11, Saskatchewan's chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab addressed questions from the media. 

The World Health Organization had declared COVID-19 a worldwide pandemic.

Asked about the safety of those attending the upcoming Junos in Saskatoon, Shahab said people should stay home if they feel sick and practise social distancing, a concept the province was barely aware of just days before.

Asked about the potential health risks associated with an election, he did not endorse the idea of heading to the ballot box or reject it.

On Thursday, March 12, the Junos were cancelled.

Canadian recording artist Alessia Cara wrote on social media, "it wouldn't be safe of smart to put thousands of people in an arena right now. Everyone's health and safety comes first and it's just too risky at the moment."

The same morning, Premier Scott Moe announced on social media there would be no early election call.

Later that day it was revealed Saskatchewan had its first presumptive case of COVID-19.

On Friday, March 13, the government announced some protective measures, asking those who had travelled internationally, including to the U.S., to self-monitor for 14 days. It also banned public gatherings of more than 250 people effective March 16. Bars, restaurants, stores, schools, churches, businesses could all remain open. 

On Sunday, March 15, Moe received pressure on social media from the public to close pre-K to 12 schools.

On Monday, March 16, Moe announced schools would close as of Friday.  The province had found its seventh case of COVID-19.

He also said the provincial budget would go ahead as planned. 

Week 2

On March 17, St. Patrick's Day, as bars and restaurants voluntarily closed on one of their busiest days, Moe said the budget would be released but in a 'scaled-back' form, with just spending details but no revenue forecasts.

On Wednesday, the government announced COVID-19 cases in the province had doubled to 16, declared a state of emergency and suspended the legislature.

Further measures to prevent the spread of the virus and encourage social distancing were put in place.

Restaurants and bars were told to keep half of their seats empty or cap the number of customers to 50. All gyms, casinos and bingo halls were forced to close.  

On Friday, Moe dropped the hammer.

He introduced widespread bans, closures and a legal requirement for all travellers to self-isolate for 14 days.

"This is not a suggestion, it is not a guideline. It is now the law."

"If you don't do this, you are now breaking the law," Moe said Friday.