Chief Medical Health Officer Says Saskatchewan Government Needs Expand COVID Measures

The chief medical health officer in Saskatchewan says the provincial government needs to look at expanding the list of settings to which COVID-19 public health measures apply.

Dr. Saqib Shahab made the remarks Friday during a COVID-19 media briefing hosted by the Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency in the absence of any government ministers, who have typically not attended those teleconferences.

Dr. Shahab was asked about the Canadian Medical Association calling for more public health measures to battle the fourth wave and whether the lack of any additional measures in Saskatchewan — beyond public masking and the proof-of-vaccination policy announced on Sept. 16 — has anything to do with the decisions of Premier Scott Moe and Health Minister Paul Merriman.

As an employee of the Ministry of Health, Dr. Shahab can make recommendations, but it’s the government that decides whether to implement any new measures.

Dr. Shahab began by saying the province still needs to “maximize or optimize” tools to curb the spread of COVID-19, including proof of vaccination or a negative test, mask use, physical distancing and effective ventilation at indoor events.

He said that even though there is no public health order limiting gatherings to up to 15 people, “that remains my strong recommendation,” pointing to the upcoming Halloween and US Thanksgiving.

Dr. Shahab recommended that fully vaccinated people can meet with the same consistent group of family and friends if they feel comfortable doing so and “are willing to take that risk especially if you have an underlying risk factor or [are] older.”

“A lot of people I know who meet as small, consistent groups, they even wear masks indoors while they meet each other. It may sound or seem odd to wear masks while you’re playing a game of cards, but you know that’s what people are doing … and that’s important,” he said, adding that keeping a window open is a good idea too.

“It is not fair to have someone who’s unvaccinated in that kind of social setting,” he added.

Dr. Shahab was then asked if Mr. Moe and Mr. Merriman made the decision to not implement public gathering restrictions.

“For gathering limits where all these layers of protection are available — proof of vaccination, negative test, mask use, better ventilation, physical distancing — are those sufficient to allow gatherings to happen? We have to watch that closely, so I’m not saying cancel those gatherings altogether,” Dr. Shahab replied.

“But what I am recommending, and the government needs to then look at that, is that should apply to all settings.

“It shouldn’t just apply to the settings that are in the current public health order. It should apply to places of worship. It should apply to all essential areas.”

Dr. Shahab has declined recently to outline precisely what COVID-19 recommendations he has made to the government, saying it’s up to the cabinet to provide those details. The government has not done so, despite multiple requests.

This post is also available in: Tiếng Việt

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