NDP leader Ryan Meili said Saskatchewan is in for a “far worse fifth wave” if the government doesn’t take urgent action to stop the spread of the Omicron COVID-19 variant.
Meili made the comments on Friday, one day after Dr. Saqib Shahab, Saskatchewan’s chief medical health officer, advised residents to avoid non-essential gatherings for the next two to four weeks.
“We’ve got a chief medical health officer who at multiple juncture during this crisis … has recommended clearly to the government and the public, actions that this government has chosen not to follow,” Meili said. “That, to me, just shows that we’ve got a premier who isn’t listening to the experts.”
Meili said the province is sending mixed messages about COVID by urging people to get vaccinated and wear masks, while reducing testing and self-isolation guidelines. He called on the government to introduce restrictions on gatherings, something he said should have been done weeks ago.
“We absolutely—when you’ve got the chief medical health officer out there telling people don’t gather—should have those restrictions to back that up,” Meili said.
“We’re going to see a far worse fifth wave than we needed to because of his (Premier Scott Moe’s) actions,” Meili added.
Shahab made his recommendations during a media update on Thursday. At the time, he declined to discuss which recommendations he had made to the provincial government.
Meili said other provinces like already seeing a rise in case numbers, and Saskatchewan soon will too.
“I’m deeply concerned about what’s going to happen with Omicron,” Meili said. “We’ve seen a huge spike in hospitalizations in Quebec and Ontario. We’re starting to see those numbers rise here. We expect that we will see lots of healthcare workers off work and unable to work at a time when the help that’s needed is greater.”
So far the province has declined to create new public health measures or re-introduce old ones. Premier Scott Moe says that’s because the Omicron variant, while incredibly infectious, is not as severe as the Delta variant that spread across Saskatchewan last year.
“We do need to learn how to live with COVID,” Moe told reporters. “We can’t lock down our communities and our community events and our businesses forever.”
Instead, Moe urged residents to get vaccinated, get a booster shot, and pick up a box of free rapid tests.
“Yes, the number of cases in Saskatchewan is rising, and will continue to rise,” Moe stated during a media update in December. “But, hospitalizations and ICU admissions continue to fall.”
As of Jan. 7, Saskatchewan has 6,254 active cases—an increase of 1,019 over the day before. There are 105 COVID-19 patients in hospital, 11 of which are in the ICU.