Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe wouldn’t commit Thursday to a threshold suggested by his chief medical health officer for granting more people the right to gather at Christmas.
Shahab stated his preference would be for the province to wait until there was an average of 120 new COVID-19 cases daily or less before relaxing gathering rules.
“I wouldn’t commit to that,” Moe told reporters Thursday.
“We also must understand that we have a holiday season that is upon us. We have put in place a number of measures that do impact our opportunity to see family, possibly in a long-term home, during that holiday season.”
Another 259 cases of COVID-19 were announced Thursday, along with the death of a resident who was in their 80s and had tested positive for the virus.
Hospitals were treating 124 patients sick with COVID-19; 24 of them were in intensive care.
Moe said he believes the capacity limits on public venues, the ban on team sports and the provincewide mask mandate will start to slow the virus’s spread enough so that some of the current health orders could be loosened when they come up for renewal in three weeks.
“If we have to make that decision today it may not be the decision that I would want and that I think many other families across the province would want,” he said.
Earlier in the week, the premier said he would like to see a way for more than five people to gather in a home over Christmas which is the current public-health rule, but Thursday mainly focused on relaxing rules for long-term care facilities.
Visits are currently not allowed in long-term or personal care homes, except for compassionate reasons.
“As we get closer to Dec. 17, and ultimately likely even closer to Christmas, we’ll have the discussion about whether or not there are any opportunities for maybe a visit with full PPE gear in a long-term care facility or not,” he said.
“I haven’t given up hope.”
Opposition NDP Leader Ryan Meili said he’s concerned the premier’s office is putting pressure on the chief medical health officer to do what is politically popular, but not wise for public health.
“People need to think about this. Relaxing long-term care restrictions during a COVID-19 spike, during a time when we’ve got outbreaks – that’s a way to lose a lot of lives,” Meili said.
On Thursday, the Saskatchewan Party government also announced the revival of an emergency grant program for small businesses that have been hit by health restrictions
Businesses with fewer than 500 employees can apply to receive a grant of 15 per cent of their monthly sales revenue recorded before the pandemic arrived in March, to a maximum of $5,000.
Eligible businesses are ones that have had to change how they operate to comply with public-health rules put in place last month and have lost revenue.
Moe said he believes a bulk of the applications will come from restaurants, where no more than four people can sit together at a table. The plan is to get the money to businesses within weeks.
The government expects the program to cost $8 million.
Meili said the program’s criteria are too narrow, leaving some local businesses unable to access the funds. He suggested Moe is hurting the economy by telling customers to stay at home while businesses remain open.
© 2020 The Canadian Press
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