Saskatchewan's Moe pans tougher restrictions because everyone can't work at home

·2 min read

REGINA — Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe says some of the people urging his government to introduce tougher COVID-19 restrictions are people who have the ability to work from home.

Moe told a virtual convention of mayors and municipal councillors Monday that his Saskatchewan Party government has been able to keep more businesses open than most jurisdictions.

Saskatchewan currently has one of the highest rates of active COVID-19 cases per capita in the country, with a seven-day average of 223 new cases each day and a population of just over one million people.

"It's easy for some to stand up and say, 'We need to lock everything down,' when they have the opportunity to work from home," Moe told delegates in an online speech.

"The fact of the matter is, is thousands of people in Saskatchewan do not have that opportunity."

Moe said many employees working for businesses that remain open to customers can't do their jobs elsewhere and his goal is to keep as many people working as possible through the pandemic.

Only bingo halls and casinos have been closed since daily case numbers began rising last fall.

Sports teams aren't allowed to play games and households can't have guests over, but businesses are allowed to have customers at reduced capacity and with other restrictions in place.

Health officials say the province's COVID-19 caseload is slowly dropping, but at a pace that's still adding pressure to hospitals and intensive care units.

As of Monday, 214 people were in hospital because of the virus and 30 of those were in intensive care. Another 171 new infections were announced and two more deaths.

Moe said those who are ill or have lost relatives to COVID-19 are in his government's thoughts, but he believes the province's overall situation is improving because the caseload is stabilizing.

"The reality is this: No matter how severe lockdowns and public health measures are, they are not going to end this pandemic," he said.

Moe called business closures and other public health measures a "stopgap" in the fight to end the pandemic. Moe said the pandemic will only end once there is widespread access to vaccines.

Saskatchewan's Ministry of Health is getting ready to release the list of people who will be next to receive a shot once more vaccines become available.

To date, the province has administered nearly 43,000 doses to critical health-care workers and seniors living in long-term care and smaller communities.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 8, 2020

Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press