The provincial government is revealing more information about future phases of the plan to reopen Saskatchewan in light of COVID-19.
On Thursday, Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab said the last phase likely won’t come into effect before mid-2021. In that phase, the government will consider lifting long-term restrictions, including on gatherings and travel.
“Anything that can be done remotely or virtually is better than anything that has to be done in person. I think that basic recommendation will remain as long as there’s a pandemic in the world. And that is not going to end until we get into phase five, which, by my estimation currently, will not happen before June 2021,” he said.
Phase three takes effect on Monday—it includes the reopening of bars, restaurants, gyms, places of worship and remaining personal care services.
It also includes increased access and availability for childcare facilities. Employees returning to work will be offered access to school-based childcare facilities, which can have a maximum of 15 children per space, up from eight.
The province has not yet determined a date for phase four; however, it gave more details on Thursday about how the phase will be split.
Part one of the fourth phase will see the reopening of child and youth day camps, as well as outdoor pools and spray parks. The second part includes indoor pools and rinks, libraries, museums, galleries, movie theatres, casinos and bingo halls.
Premier Scott Moe said the government is getting heat for not reopening faster. As much as he would also like to further open facilities, Moe said the government must do so at a cautious pace.
“I get those calls; I get those texts; I get those emails each and every day,” he said.
In particular, many parents are getting frustrated that their children still have few recreation opportunities. With schools closing in March, kids have already spent a longer period of time at home than they would during summer holidays.
According to a news release, the province is currently working on developing guidelines for the reopening of playgrounds and beaches. More details will be released early next week.
Shahab said although it’s easier to contain the spread of COVID-19 outdoors, playgrounds in particular could put children at risk of contracting the virus.
“There needs to be some oversight in terms of how children engage, in terms of reducing crowding and hand sanitization before and after using structures, which really, you can’t expect municipalities to sanitize them in a meaningful way on a day-to-day basis. I think that’s where some thought will have to be given,” Shahab said.
Moe assured the public that the government is working on developing those parameters, and that the Re-Open Saskatchewan Plan isn’t just for reviving the economy.
“We most certainly hear you,” he said.
Temporary wage subsidy expanded to include more care workers
Also on Thursday, the provincial government announced it’s expanding the requirements for the temporary wage subsidy.
All workers at a licensed public or private long-term care home are now eligible for the $400 top up every four weeks, for up to 16 weeks, for the period from March 15 to July 4.
In addition, assisted living facility workers will now be eligible if they earn a wage less than $24 per hour in the four-week period for which the worker has applied for the supplement. They must also have a gross total earnings of less than $2,500, including earnings from work outside of the eligible care facility, in the four-week period for which they’ve applied.
Private day cares and approved private service homes will also be eligible.
“We understand the additional pressure that has been placed on these employees because of the risk to our seniors, our family members in these long-term care homes and because of the restrictions that have prevented family members from visiting and providing support as they normally would otherwise,” said Moe.
“Through this time, these workers have provided tremendous physical and emotional support to our seniors…our parents and our grandparents, (these workers) have protected them from the kind of devastating outbreaks that we have seen in long-term care centres in other provinces.”
The wage supplement will be provided to full-time, part-time and casual workers at these facilities. It only excludes third-party contract service providers.
“Program benefits and eligibility periods remain the same; however, the benefits will soon be available to more workers who are helping many of Saskatchewan’s most vulnerable citizens get through the COVID-19 emergency,” added Finance Minister Donna Harpauer in a news release.
For more information about the wage supplement, visit www.saskatchewan.ca/wage-supplement-program. People with questions about the supplement may also email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-800-667-6102 or 306-787-6645.