Province limits questions to Saskatoon reporters at crucial COVID-19 press conference

Thursday’s much anticipated province-wide COVID-19 press conference didn't include a call-in option. Reporters based outside Saskatoon were left unable to ask questions

Reporters based outside of Saskatoon were unable to pose questions as Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe and Chief Medical Health Officer Saqib Shahab announced the details of a new province-wide mask mandate and vaccination requirements that apply to all Saskatchewan residents.

The press conference was held at the Saskatoon Cabinet Office to provide details of an interim provincial mandatory masking order effective September 17 alongside proof of vaccination or negative test requirements effective October 1.

Residents across the province are bracing for a fourth wave of coronavirus. Vaccination rates are especially low in the far north region as cases continue to climb.

First Nations, rural and remote municipalities had already begun imposing their own measures to access facilities under their jurisdiction.

But Thursday’s much anticipated COVID-19 update and press conference didn’t include a call-in option.

Saskatchewan ministry of government relations spokesperson Matthew Glover told the Prince Albert Daily Herald that while they do their best to make conferences accessible to media across the province that was not possible on Thursday. 

“Unfortunately today there wasn’t a live option for asking the (questions). We have done our best to make that an option, but it is not always possible,” Glover said.  

“However, today was a province-wide announcement, so there was nothing more specific to one region over another.” 

Reporters based outside of Saskatoon were notified of the conference and provided the link to a livestream on Facebook that did not allow for participation in the meeting. 

“Effective Friday…  an interim public health order will be in effect requiring the use of non-medical masks in all indoor public spaces in Saskatchewan,” Moe said. 

“Saskatchewan will also be introducing a proof of vaccination or a negative test requirement and that starts with employees of your provincial government.”

Moe said the mandatory vaccination order comes into effect on October 1 and is targeted to be lifted in late October — at which time a “fool-proof” vaccination or negative test requirement will have been implemented for “about three to four weeks.” 

Children under 12 years old are exempt from those requirements.

The Prince Albert Daily Herald reached out with some specific questions on behalf of readers and were directed to a press release, the latest version of which can be found on the government’s website. 

The provincial requirement for proof of vaccination or negative test will be implemented for public access to a list of establishments, businesses and event venues. 

Moe said work has been underway “for the past several weeks” on Saskatchewan’s verifiable vaccination record which will be launched the week of September 20.

Once launched, a QR code can be easily downloaded from a mobile device. Cards provided at the time of vaccination will also be allowed.

Proof of vaccination or negative tests will be implemented for indoor dining at restaurants, nightclubs, bars, taverns and other licensed establishments. The mandate also covers event and entertainment venues, indoor fitness centres, and gyms. 

Proof of vaccination will not be required for private gatherings held at an indoor public residence, retail businesses, places of worship, fast food restaurants offering takeout and delivery, health care services, lodging or non-ticketed amateur sporting events. 

Business meetings and places of business closed to the general public are also exempt unless otherwise directed by the business or employer. 

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