Shahab more sad than angry after protestors follow him out of legislature

Saskatchewan's Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab. (Government of Saskatchewan/Screenshot)

Saskatchewan’s chief medical health officer said he’s more sad than angry after a small group of anti-mask protestors followed him out of the Saskatchewan Legislative Building on Jan. 12.

Security guards escorted Dr. Saqib Shahab to his vehicle as a precautionary measure, the Saskatoon StarPhoenix reported. When asked about the incident on Thursday, Shahab said he’s concerned some residents won’t trust public health officials and researchers.

“It’s only a small number of people, but I actually am concerned and feel a bit sad,” he told told reporters during a provincial COVID update. “Why are people not believing the basic evidence?”

Shahab said much of the debate is about science and not policy. He believes research clearly shows COVID-19 is very infectious and has long-term health consequences. He urged residents who opposed government measures to do more research on the virus.

“There’s evidence now about how all these layers that we talked about–mask use, physical distancing, staying home when you’re sick–are critical, and how effective and safe vaccines are,” he said. “I think I’d really urge anyone with questions to go to credible sources to increase their understanding. Most of us already know the basics and are practicing that.”

Jim Billington, the executive director of communications for Premier Scott Moe, told the StarPhoenix they provided securty guards as a precautionary measure, and not in response to a specific threat. Billington said they were worried Shahab might be harrassed on his way to his vehicle.

The use of masks and vaccines have been a regular concern among some Saskatchewan residents over the past few months, and Shahab has sometimes found himself in their crosshairs.

In December, a speaker at an anti-mask protest appeared to intentionally mispronounce Shahab’s name before telling the crowd he couldn’t “get these foreigners names right.” Premier Scott Moe called the comments “embaressing” and “idiotic” while opposition leader Ryan Meili condemned the remarks as “blatantly racist.”

Health Canada says well-designed and well-fitting masks or face coverings can prevent the spread of infectious repiratory droplets, provided the masks fit properly. They also need specific materials to be effective. At least two layers of cotton or linen fabrics, along with a third middle layer of filter-type fabric like non-woven polypropylene, must be used.