Saskatchewan premier defends not imposing more COVID rules ahead of holidays

·2 min read

REGINA — Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe says low COVID-19 hospitalizations and manageable case numbers mean the province doesn't need new public health measures.

Moe defends the province's decision to forgo stronger restrictions in a short video posted on social media.

The premier says his government is tracking the situation daily and hasn't ruled out introducing additional measures about large gathering sizes next week.

Saskatchewan is one of the only jurisdictions not to impose new public health rules this week as the country deals with rising cases of the highly transmissible Omicron variant.

The province recently opened up COVID-19 vaccine booster shots for people ages 18 and older and reduced the wait time for second and third doses to three months from five.

There are 194 new daily cases in Saskatchewan and 87 patients in hospital with the virus — down by four from the previous day — including 29 in intensive care.

"Case counts are definitely rising and they will continue to rise in the days ahead," Moe said.

"However, if serious cases and hospitalizations remain low and manageable, we do not want to go back to shutting down activities, restricting businesses in our communities and taking away your personal freedoms."

Dr. Saqib Shahab, the province's chief medical health officer, said earlier this week that the Omicron variant is not dominant in the province but it is expected to spread widely in a few weeks.

He said that he recommended internally to the government that people in Saskatchewan need to reduce contacts by 50 per cent.

Shahab encouraged people to be cautious, but did not say they are required to gather in smaller groups over the holidays.

Moe says in the video that residents can enjoy a safe holiday season by getting their COVID-19 vaccine booster shots and picking up free rapid testing kits.

"We should be concerned about Omicron but not panicked," he said.

"COVID is going to be with us for a while in one form or another. But we can all live our lives safely and we can do the things we enjoy if we're careful and do a few simple things differently."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 23, 2021.

The Canadian Press

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version said Moe encourages residents to purchase rapid testing kits.

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