Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe says some businesses that were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic could reopen next month.
In a televised address from the legislature Wednesday, a first for a Saskatchewan Party premier, Moe announced that his government has a five-phase plan to allow some businesses and services to open their doors.
Moe said the province has managed to keep its infection rate low, which means it can look at relaxing some of the restrictions it introduced last month to slow the spread of the virus.
“We know there are risks on both sides,” he said.
“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.”
The province reported six new cases on Wednesday, bringing the total number to 326. There have so far been four deaths, and 261 people have recovered.
Moe said Saskatchewan’s cases are about 70 per cent below the national average, and its hospitalizations and deaths more than 90 per cent below the national figure.
“What we are doing in Saskatchewan is working,” he said. “We have flattened the curve.”
Saskatchewan is one of the provinces eyeing a reopening of some parts of its economy as spread of the virus becomes manageable.
Moe said more details on what businesses and services will be allowed to reopen and when they can do so will be announced Thursday.
In his speech, he said some of the reopenings are slated for May.
“As businesses are allowed to reopen and employees return to work, they will have to follow stringent physical distancing and cleaning procedures, just like the grocery stores.”
Opposition NDP leader Ryan Meili said he’s waiting to see the government’s plan and will be looking for details on how the province would respond if there is a spike in cases.
“We’ve seen Alberta think they were past the worst of it and now having a spike. We’ve got an outbreak in La Loche — this needs to be done so carefully and so wisely.”
Bars, restaurants, gyms, theatres and personal services such as hair salons were some of the businesses ordered closed after Saskatchewan recorded its first case of COVID-19 in March.
Dental and physical therapy clinics have been permitted to perform urgent procedures, and daycares have been limited to eight children.
Moe said restrictions around non-essential travel, visits to long-term care homes and large gatherings will stay put.
He did not mention schools, but has said it’s unlikely they would reopen soon.
Meili said he wants to know what the government plans to do for parents who want to return to work but don’t have child care options and whether there would be programs to support them.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 22, 2020.
Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press