Less than a week after announcing the public health order requiring masks in larger centres in Saskatchewan, Premier Scott Moe and public health have expanded the mandatory mask policy to cover the entire province.
Face masks or coverings will be required in all indoor public spaces across the province beginning Nov. 19.
Previously, masks were only required in indoor public spaces in communities with a population over 5,000, which included an estimated 65 per cent of the province’s population.
The change in policy comes after criticisms towards public health for only targeting large centres with the mandatory mask order, which came into force on Nov. 16. Feedback showed that the policy was “confusing,” said Moe.
Public health also announced that beginning Thursday, the limit of people allowed at a private indoor gathering will be reduced, from 10 people down to five.
This includes gatherings in the home and on other private property. For families with five members or more already, no additional visitors from outside the home bubble will be allowed.
Residents are advised to limit contact to just one other household, said Moe during a press conference, as many of the recent positive cases have been linked to transmission in social settings.
Outdoor gatherings will remain capped at 30 people, provided appropriate physical distancing can be maintained.
The reduction follows repeated statements from chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab asking residents to limit their contact by keeping social bubbles small.
Entertainment transportation, such as party busses and limousines, is also no longer permitted and public health is reinstating the suspension on visitation to all long-term care facilities and personal care homes.
With the exception of compassionate care reasons, no visitors will be allowed in these facilities. This change comes following a handful of declared outbreaks in senior living facilities last week — including Extendicare in Moose Jaw.
All of the measures announced today will begin on Thursday and remain in place for a month, at which time they will be reviewed by public health.
Moe also promised that changes to the safety guidelines currently in place for the hospitality industry, including restaurants, athletic and recreation organizations and places of worship will be provided in the next few days.
“This is not a lockdown, this is a slowdown, a significant one-month slowdown,” said Moe, of the new measures announced today and of those to come.
Shahab and Moe both warned that if positive cases continue to trend upwards, residents will have to prepare to see more strict guidelines reinstated.
Moe stressed the consequences will be serious, both in terms of strain on public health as well as on the economy if another lockdown were to occur.
Moe also reminded residents that there is the potential for fines for non-compliance with public health orders, and applauded the police forces who have offered their judgement in issuing fines thus far.
For more information about COVID-19 in Saskatchewan, visit saskatchewan.ca/covid19.