NDP calls for short term circuit breaker in Regina

Ryan Meili spoke from his home about the province's COVID-19 response on March 20, 2020. Screen capture.

NDP leadership made a call for a targeted, short-term circuit breaker for Regina and area during a Zoom press conference on Tuesday. Official Opposition Leader Ryan Meili and Health Critic Vicki Mowat called the government’s response a cause for the catastrophe.

“What we are seeing in Regina and area is incredibly worrisome as the city is leading the country in new cases with a frightening outbreak of variants of concern. We are here because the Premier failed to act, the most dangerous thing for our economy and our health right now is Scott Moe and his lack of leadership in getting this pandemic under control,” Meili said.

Meili noted that Premier Scott Moe has had several opportunities to get control of the COVID-19 virus in Saskatchewan but has failed to act. As a result, Saskatchewan has led the country in new COVID-19 cases for most of 2021 and has seen very high death rates – while losing 23,000 jobs and falling behind BC, Manitoba and Quebec in terms of unemployment. Moreover, the government acted to reduce public health measures even though the SHA warned against those moves with modelling that predicted higher case counts.

Meili added that Moe was aware of modelling and wasn’t shared with the public showed the crisis in Regina as a possibility.

“He knew this was coming and instead of getting ahead of it he actually chose to reduce public health measures putting people at greater danger. He didn’t listen to doctors, he didn’t listen to public health experts, to economists because he only cared about the politics,” Meili said.

Meili said that he hoped that the government would act and thought they might act and the Premier saw the modelling weeks ago.

Meili also noted that the government is relying on vaccinations as the way out of the pandemic.

“Every expert warmed that that wasn’t enough he thought he knew better and he gambled, he gambled with people’s lives and livelihoods, he gambled and the people of Saskatchewan are the ones that are paying the price for his poor judgement. We deserve better, we deserve leadership and we deserve a government that will protect and support us, we deserve a government that will protect and support us not play games that leave people sick and struggling,” Meili said.

The NDP’s call was for an evidence-based, targeted, short-term circuit breaker in Regina and area. The length of the circuit breaker was set at a few weeks by Mowat.

Measures included reducing household bubbles to pre-March 9 levels, continuing to target vaccination to Regina and area, moving bars and restaurants to delivery and take-out only, moving as many workers as possible to “work from home” arrangements, particularly in the civil service and Crown sectors, staffing up contact tracing and supports for those off work to isolate, advising strongly against any non-essential travel to and from Regina, providing supports for school kids needing access to technology and child care for essential workers, supporting local businesses to access federal wage and rent subsidies and provincial investment to fill gaps and quickly expanding these measures to other communities should there be evidence of variant spread elsewhere.

“We believe these measures will help get case numbers under control and prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed while the vaccines are deployed. Let’s be clear we are here because the Premier made the wrong call repeatedly,” Mowat said.

Tighter restrictions were enacted Tuesday. That announcement was made shortly after the NDP’s press conference came to an end.

The NDP’s statements Tuesday echoed a call made in November for a province-wide circuit breaker.

“We saw this government choose not to act and as a result we have lost hundreds of people, thousands of jobs and we have had far too many people become sick and wind up in hospital. The stress on our economy, the stress on our health has been enormous these last few months. We hope that we are not looking back a few months from now and saying the same thing that the government refused to act and refused to take this advice seriously. Because this is too important for us to allow them to continue to make the same mistakes over and over again,” Meili said.

Meili is concerned that the variants could spread across the province because that is how the variants act.

“What we see is that these variants spread quickly, something like 50 per cent more contagious and they make people far sicker, 50 per cent more virulent so they make people sicker and younger people sicker. They can spread so quick so that’s why we have to be super vigilant to get it under control in Regina,” he explained.