Moe threatens to close businesses flaunting public health orders

Herald File Photo.

Premier Scott Moe floated further enforcement of ‘bad actors’ Tuesday in response to videos circulating of alleged flagrant violations of COVID-19 restrictions at restaurants and bars.

Moe said he has asked public health to look at stricter enforcement, including ordering businesses to close.

In a press conference on Tuesday Moe addressed a video that surfaced of the Tap Brewhouse and Liquor Store in Regina over the weekend.

“I’m sure many saw the video this past weekend with patrons in a bar or restaurant here in Regina where they were evidently and flagrantly outside of what the public health orders recommend and certainly outside of what the public health laws allow for. But the vast majority of our restaurants in this province are adhering to our public health orders that are in place but there are these few outliers that are not,”

Moe gave the example of sports still being restricted in the province and a petition circulating for a return of sports in the province.

“I have sitting on my desk right now a petition with over 10,000 signatures on it, signatures from parents, form adults that are asking to allow their children to play hockey or to have the opportunity for competitive youth recreation,” Moe said.

Moe explained that he asks himself if all restaurants need to be punished for the actions of a few who don’t adhere to public health restrictions.

“We don’t need to punish all of those that are following the public health orders. But to those establishments and those individuals who flagrantly operating outside of the public health orders — they do need to be punished,” he said.

However introducing new measures was off the table until the current measures have completed on Jan. 29.

“I don’t believe that we need new measures put in place to bend the COVID curve here in Saskatchewan. We do need everyone to follow the measures that are in place and enough is enough. It is time for us to start enforcing those that are not following those measures,” Moe said.

Moe said that children are making sacrifices including sports and it is time for adults to make the same. Moe said he has talked to public health and encourages law enforcement, when there is flagrant violations of orders in establishments, to ramp enforcement up.

“We are not going to punish everyone for the acts of a few,” Moe said.

 Chief Medical Health Officer Saqib Shahab described his own dilemma regarding case numbers.

“It is a hard and difficult situation because we continue to be stuck in this 300 range and you know like I said before we want to be heading down below 250, below 200, below 150 that is where we need to go and in December we were heading in that direction and over the holidays we really went down but that was artificial because our testing went down,” he said.

Shahab said that case numbers so far in January are spiking due to a lack of compliance with public health orders over the Holiday season.

 “We saw cases over 300 or 400. Now, we are not seeing those numbers so much but we are seeing examples where people aren’t complying with the guidance and it seems to be mostly younger people or in situations where people seem compelled to go because of the death of a loved one and we are seeing transmission there.”

Baseline transmission is high at 300 cases a day. Shahab said small gatherings can create transmissions. There have also been outbreaks connected to funerals and wakes in the north that have created uncontrolled spread.

“I think we need to pay our respects virtually as much as possible. Guidance allows for close family and friends to get together for those occasions. But I think overall we have to be very cautious,”

The trend numbers also show hospitalization numbers creeping up to a level that is unsustainable.

“They are creeping up and over time I think that creates its own pressures on the health care system and unfortunately it generates deaths as well,” Shahab said.

Moe reiterated that the measures are significant and did show some success after they were enacted in December and before the holiday increase

“We peaked in the time after the holiday bump, which we had predicted would occur, with about 328 cases per day on the seven day rolling average and we are down now to about 300 so we need to continue that downward trajectory,” he said,

Moe explained that he thought the cases were trending down those trends will be watched in light of the extension of public health measures to Jan. 29.