Premier says reopen Sask. plan consists of 5 phases, a few of which will begin next month

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe. (Herald file photo)

Premier Scott Moe gave residents a taste of Saskatchewan’s plan to reopen businesses and other public services as part of his provincial address on Wednesday evening.

As the province’s COVID-19 numbers continue on a positive trend, Moe said “I think we can begin to provide a bit of optimism.”

The plan, which will be revealed in full on Thursday morning, consists of five phases. The first few of which will begin in May.

Moe stressed that restrictions will lift “gradually and methodically,” and that businesses will still be required to ensure physical distancing and strict sanitation. He said restrictions related to travel, mass gatherings and long-term care homes will remain in place.

“We know there are risks on both sides. If we move too quickly, we risk increasing the spread of COVID-19. If we move too slowly, we risk permanent damage to the livelihoods of thousands of Saskatchewan people, businesses that may never reopen and jobs that may never come back,” said Moe.

“We have to find the right path.”

As of Wednesday, Saskatchewan has a total of 326 cases of COVID-19—this number includes 261 recoveries, four deaths and 61 active cases.

On a per capita basis, said Moe, the province’s numbers are 77 per cent below the national average. Serious outcomes, including hospitalizations and deaths, are more than 90 per cent below Canada’s average.

He also shed light on ramping up testing and contact tracing, which will continue into the future. The province’s testing rate is more than 40 per cent above the national average.

“The last few weeks have been difficult for everyone. This is not how things are supposed to be — people are meant to be together and it’s against our very nature to stay apart,” said Moe.

Businesses considered essential, such as grocery stores and pharmacies, have found ways to protect its employees and customers, including installing plexiglass at checkout and wiping down debit machines after each use.

“We did all of these things as lives depended on it, because they do,” said Moe.

He pointed out three stories of people stepping up to help throughout the pandemic across the province. One of them was Prince Albert’s Eleanor Land, who’s been baking 50 to 65 loaves of bread each week for the Community Cares Kitchen.

“In this crisis, your character has been revealed as resilient, determined, courageous and compassionate,” Moe told Saskatchewan residents.

“I have never been so proud to call this province home.”

Meili: ‘Going forward, we need an economic plan that puts people first’

In response to Moe’s speech, Saskatchewan NDP Leader Ryan Meili said the province’s recovery from COVID-19 will show areas of underfunding.

“The people of Saskatchewan have stepped up. It’s absolutely time for our government to step up as well, both in this immediate phase as well as long-term,” said Meili.

He said the province has been “nowhere near” willing to put forward additional funding to families, businesses and communities during the pandemic. That’s why he’s calling for an economic plan focused on people.

He said the focus of this plan would include employing Saskatchewan workers, investing in long-term and frontline health care and child care, making sure that “the people who are working out there on the frontlines aren’t getting the lowest minimum wage in the country.”

Meili said the province’s recovery will take longer if these areas of need aren’t addressed.

He was unable to say if reopening Saskatchewan’s is economy starting in May is too soon considering the plan won’t be released until Thursday. However, Meili said it would have been reasonable to reveal more details in the provincial address.

“We all want to get back to something that resembles normal, but nobody should do that in a way that’s going to make us in more danger.”