Province advises against non-essential interprovincial travel to keep COVID-19 numbers low

Premier Scott Moe. (Government of Saskatchewan/Screenshot)

The Saskatchewan government is reiterating its recommendation to avoid non-essential travel to other provinces in light of COVID-19.

While Saskatchewan’s active cases are fairly low, said the government, neighbouring provinces have recently seen spikes. Saskatchewan still has a number of cases linked to travel, either by road or plane.

“If it isn’t absolutely necessary for you to leave, you should reconsider,” said Premier Scott Moe during a news conference on Wednesday. 

“Will it increase your chances of getting COVID given the current environment that we’re in? It may,” he said, adding that travelling to another province doesn’t automatically mean you’ll catch the virus, however.

The province is not implementing a mandatory 14-day self-isolation period for travellers—That was in effect for international travel when COVID-19 first entered the province, as the majority of the initial cases were linked to travelling.

Moe said the government doesn’t feel the need to implement mandatory isolation. It is important to monitor your symptoms though, he said, especially if you’ve travelled recently.

“To date, the people in this province have followed the recommendations very, very well,” said Moe.

“We’re not yet at a point where we are saying that you have to self-isolate for 14 days upon your return.”

If you do have to travel, he encouraged you to have physical contact with only a small group of people, to practice physical distancing and to wash your hands regularly. 

Moe said “don’t hesitate” to reach out to HealthLine 811 and get a referral for a COVID-19 test, whether you’re showing symptoms or not.

Dr. Saqib Shahab, Saskatchewan’s chief medical health officer, added that you should know the status of the location you’re visiting.

“It’s really important to see where you are travelling—is that a hot spot? And maybe look at your plans and not got to a hot spot,” he said.

“Given the low transmission rate, I think that next few weeks are very important.”

The province’s effective reproductive number, which reflects an average of how many people one person will transmit the virus to, is currently sitting at around .5. The test positive rate is at .3 per cent.

With schools reopening next week and people spending more time indoors as the weather cools, he said it’s important to remain vigilant. This includes wearing a mask while in public places where you can’t maintain a proper distance from others.

“This is the year that you don’t go to work or to school sick,” said Shahab.

‘No discussion’ about moving to Phase 5 of reopen plan

Moe says the government is not currently considering moving on to Phase 5 of the Re-Open Saskatchewan plan, which includes mass gatherings.

“As far as moving into essentially a mass level five, let’s have large events again, there’s no discussion about that at this point in time.”

The second half of Phase 4 began on June 29. The phase allowed museums, libraries, galleries, movie theatres and live theatres to operate with some limitations to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Shahab said the province needs to continue to protect the most vulnerable, such as people in long-term care homes, until an effective vaccine is available.

Currently, both indoor and outdoor gatherings are restricted to a maximum of 30 people. 

The province has made exceptions though, such as for worship services—In that case, you can have up to 150 people or one-third of the seating capacity while following prevention measures.