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Saskatchewan declares state of emergency

The Government of Saskatchewan announced Wednesday they are declaring a state of emergency amid the continuously growing number of positive tests for COVID-19.

Premier Scott Moe, along with chief medical officer Dr. Saqib Shahab and Health Minister Jim Reiter, announced further restrictions and eight more cases of the virus in Saskatchewan, bringing the number of confirmed and presumptive cases to 16.

“This is a responsibility that we take incredibly seriously,” said Moe.

Further restrictions that are put in place immediately include gatherings of 50 or more people are now prohibited, bars and event venues must limit their seating to 50 per cent of their capacity or a maximum of 50, whichever is less. All establishments must also be able to ensure a social distance of one to two metres.

Retail spaces including pharmacies, gas stations and grocery stores will be excluded from the restrictions.

Moe added that for restaurants and bars this is phase one. Phase two could be implemented in the coming days which would mean closing them completely, other than for takeout and delivery options.

“We all have a responsibility, and we all have to take that responsibility seriously. I would say that most of us are doing that. But, I have heard anecdotal reports of people that have returned home from abroad and were in the community the next day. We simply can’t do that, we need to isolate,” said Moe.

Overnight Saskatchewan doubled the amount of cases in the province, all are still presumably travel related other than one who was “tested following close contact with a previously announced presumptive positive case in Saskatchewan.”

Fourteen of the cases are presumptive with two being confirmed.

“We are seeing exactly what we predicted we would see. It’s happening pretty fast but it’s still something that is manageable,” said Shahab.

Shahab added with many returning to Canada in light of federal government travel restrictions, it is essential people self-isolate upon returning to help minimize the chance of community transmission.

“It is a time to calm everything down for a while. Hopefully, that will slow any risk of this taking off more quickly than it should,” said Shahab.

Moe added during the stages of trying to flatten the curve of the pandemic, it is important to listen to the advice of Shahab and other leading medical professionals. 

“We are taking action in this province on the very best advice from some of the very best medical professionals in the world. But, it simply will not work, if we do not follow it,” said Moe.

“We all have a personal responsibility to ourselves, to our family, to our community. We have a personal responsibility to this province and to this nation,” he added.

On top of the other restrictions announced today, the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) will be discontinuing all non-urgent/elective surgeries, procedures and diagnostics as of March 23. 

Moe also said parents with children in daycare should be prepared for further restrictions.

Jordan Stricker, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Estevan Mercury