Saskatchewan To Remove Covid-Related Public Health Measures In The Coming Days

1 year ago

Saskatchewan To Lift Covid Measures By End Of February; Proof Of Vax Ending Monday
February 8, 2022

Saskatchewan is set to remove its COVID-related public health measures in the coming days, with proof of vaccination or a negative test going first.

Other public health measures -- including masking in indoor public places -- are to remain in place until the end of February, when they too are to be lifted.

During a media conference Tuesday, Premier Scott Moe said the proof of vaccination/proof of negative test to gain access to Saskatchewan businesses, provincially regulated workplaces and other public venues will end Monday at 12:01 a.m.

eHealth Saskatchewan will continue to make proof of vaccination records and QR codes available to Saskatchewan residents for use such as travel or in other jurisdictions.

“When we first introduced this policy (in September), I would be the first to admit that I was reluctant to do so,” Moe said. “I knew there would be much benefit from a policy such as this in the fight against COVID and, at that time the Delta wave, but I also knew that that benefit would come with significant cost.

“I knew that this policy would create deep divisions in our families, in our friendship groups, in our province and in communities across Saskatchewan. People would potentially have different access or rights based on what their relative vaccination status would be.

“That is the result of that policy. So what was actually a pretty extraordinary step to take in this province effectively created two classes of citizens.”

Moe admitted the policy prompted more people to get vaccinated and the transmission of the Delta variant ultimately was reduced. However, Moe contends vaccines aren’t preventing the transmission of COVID as well in the current wave, so the government decided a different solution was needed.

As a result, the vaccine passport is on its way out.

“If someone makes a different choice about whether or not they are vaccinated, that’s their right and this government is going to respect that right,” Moe said. “Today, with Omicron, the benefits of the proof of vaccination policy no longer outweigh the costs.

“This policy most certainly has run its course, so it’s time for us to take a step back in living with COVID and to make every effort to get our lives back to normal.”

Because all of the public health orders will end at the end of February, people will also not be legally required to isolate for five days if they test positive. Moe said Saskatchewan people know what’s required of them and he expects people to continue to isolate.

Organizations ranging from unions to the Saskatchewan Medical Association to the Opposition NDP have criticized the government’s plan to lift the restrictions at this time, in part seeking to help the strain on the health-care workers, teachers and other individuals in the province.

Moe said his government has consulted with those groups, along with many individuals who’ve called MLA offices, but he said the government ultimately decided on this course.

“The decision has been made by government to move forward in this fashion, to lay out what the next three weeks look like in Saskatchewan,” said Moe.

The premier believes other provinces will follow Saskatchewan’s lead in the coming weeks and he hopes the federal government will do the same.

“We should as Canadians know where we are going over the course of the next number of weeks,” said Moe.

If it wants, a store or venue will still be able to ask people to wear a mask while inside, but the protections for businesses and workplaces to ask for proof of vaccination will be repealed at the same time as the health order. Moe advised businesses that want to keep asking for proof, for either customers or employees, to consult their lawyers.

In a media release, the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour said the end of the vaccine passport will put the safety of workers at risk, with COVID likely to spread across the province.

The SFL repeated its demands that the government ensure proper PPE for all workers, legislate 10 days of paid sick leave for all workers, and ensure safe staffing levels in hospitals, schools and other public services.

“We all want the pandemic to end, but we need to remain vigilant to make sure that workers are kept safe,” SFL president Lori Johb said. “Taking the steps we’ve outlined would go a long way to making sure that we are able to successfully beat COVID-19 once and for all and ensure that our health care system is not overwhelmed.”

Johb also suggested workers could face harassment if they wear protective equipment after the measures are lifted.

On Tuesday, Moe said it’s time to heal the rift that he believes the policy created in the province, and time for people to support one another and the decisions they made.

“Let’s not judge our neighbour because they may be vaccinated or because they may not be vaccinated,” Moe said. “Let’s not judge our neighbour if they should choose to wear a mask or not to choose to wear a mask in the weeks ahead.

“Whenever someone is doing their own personal risk assessment -- which we have asked them to do in this province for a period of time now -- they’re doing that assessment for themselves and possibly for their family and they may come back with a different decision than what you might arrive at.

“That different conclusion, albeit maybe different from where you have landed, should not be judged. It should be respected and it should be accepted.”

Case numbers, hospitalizations and the active case total all were trending down before the government stopped posting daily COVID updates on its website this week.

However, Moe encouraged residents to continue to take steps necessary to keep themselves and others safe.

“As we move into this next phase, the phase of now living with COVID, I would ask you to continue to make wise choices,” he said, referring to things such as vaccinations, booster shots and rapid tests. “This is paramount to our success.”

When it comes to restrictions in Saskatchewan Health Authority facilities like hospitals and care homes, they could conceivably continue as -- during flu season, for example -- the SHA might have visitor restrictions. But Moe and Dr. Saqib Shahab said more details on that would be coming soon.

Booster shots

The government also announced booster shots are available effective immediately for all Saskatchewan residents between the ages of 12 and 17.

The Pfizer mRNA booster will be offered at least five months after an individual gets their second shot.

Previously, boosters for that age group were available only for teens who are immunocompromised or have other health conditions. Those individuals could get their booster three months after getting their second shot.


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