Saskatchewan

Meili calls Moe's lockdown comment 'slap in the face' to health-care workers and those grieving, sick

Saskatchewan Opposition Leader Ryan Meili says Premier Scott Moe's comment that some asking for lockdowns have the ability to work from home is a "slap in the face" to health-care and essential workers.

Sask. leads country in per capita rate of cases, deaths over last 14 days

Saskatchewan NDP Leader Ryan Meili says the provincial government should have adopted his party's pitch of three-week shutdown in November when cases were on the rise. Meili since there have been 10 times the number of deaths related to COVID-19. (Michael Bell/The Canadian Press)

Saskatchewan Opposition Leader Ryan Meili says Premier Scott Moe's comment that some people asking for lockdowns can work from home is a "slap in the face" to those who have lost a loved one or contracted COVID-19, and to the health-care workers fighting the pandemic.

Meili spoke at the annual Municipalities Association of Saskatchewan convention Tuesday morning.

On Monday, during his address to delegates, Moe said, "it's easy for some to stand up and say, 'We need to lock everything down,' when they have the opportunity to work from home."

"The reality is this: No matter how severe lockdowns and public health measures are, they are not going to end this pandemic."

Moe called lockdowns a "stopgap" and that the only way to end the pandemic is widespread vaccinations.

Meili responded to Moe's comments during his online speech to delegates Tuesday morning.

"The vaccine is great but the vaccine won't bring back anyone we've lost and it won't bring back the folks we may lose," Meili said Tuesday.

"In the last two weeks, Saskatchewan has had more new cases, more deaths per capita than any place in Canada," Meili said.

"The sad thing is we didn't have to lose this many people, it didn't have to be this way."

Meili said on Nov. 18, his party called for a three-week circuit breaker lockdown "against the coming surge of COVID-19 and to avoid more damaging lockdowns."

"We weren't alone, over 400 doctors signed a letter calling for a circuit-breaker — nurses, pharmacists, other front-line health-care workers all made the same call. These aren't exactly people who just work from home. These are the people on the front lines taking care of the sick. Protecting us all."

Meili said those calling for more measures were "right."

Meili said the cases and deaths have surged since then, at the time of his letter, there were 32 deaths in the province.

As of Monday, 341 COVID-19 -related deaths have occurred in Saskatchewan.

"The premier chose not to act decisively then and now, not even three months later, over 10 times that many people have died with 200 deaths in the last six weeks alone. Hundreds more have been hospitalized. Thousands more have been sick or have had their lives disrupted due to outbreaks in their community and their workplace and their school."

Saskatchewan's COVID-19 cases have been dropping slowly but the province still leads the country in the rate of cases over the past two weeks. (Government of Canada)

Meili said the provincial government's "half measures" have lingered.

"All of this was done in the name of protecting business, as though the virus spreading widely through our communities was somehow good for the bottom line, pitting lives against livelihoods.

"That's not the choice. It's the pandemic that's bad for business, not getting under control, not addressing it properly. That's what's hurting our economy the most," Meili said.

The November letter signed by more than 400 doctors urged the government to take more action against COVID-19.

"If more is not done to change our course we are confident that winter will bring overflowing hospitals, cancelled surgeries, overwhelmed health-care providers and needless death," the letter said.

Concerns were also expressed by the Saskatchewan Medical Association who wrote an op-ed calling for further action.

Six other health organizations supported the SMA's call for more action and included, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan, the College of Family Physicians of Canada, the Saskatchewan Registered Nurses Association, the Saskatchewan Union of Nurses, the Pharmacy Association of Saskatchewan and the Saskatchewan College of Pharmacy Professionals.

In response, Health Minister Paul Merriman thanked the physicians for their engagement and dedication.

"I agree that a solid foundation of science and expert medical opinion is central to an effective response to COVID-19, which is why our government has been acting upon the advice and guidance of our top doctor, Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab."

Both Moe and Merriman rejected the NDP pitch equating it to a "wide-scale shutdown."

"This is exactly what we are trying to avoid through the measures announced in recent days, which are designed to slow down the spread of COVID-19 without shutting down businesses," Merriman said in a written statement on Nov. 18.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Adam Hunter

Journalist

Adam Hunter is the provincial affairs reporter at CBC Saskatchewan, based in Regina. He has been with CBC for more than 14 years. Follow him on Twitter @AHiddyCBC. Contact him: adam.hunter@cbc.ca

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