Sask. NDP calls for 'circuit breaker' COVID-19 measures, province says no
Sask. Party gov't says strategy would put many out of work
The Saskatchewan NDP is calling on the province and its residents to consider "circuit breaker" measures to control the spread of COVID-19 and preserve a holiday season.
A circuit breaker would be a period of high restrictions designed to stop the spread of COVID-19 and relieve pressure on the heath-care system.
At a news conference Wednesday, Opposition NDP Leader Ryan Meili said the government's response to the second wave of COVID-19 was too slow. Meili laid out several measures he wanted to see the government enact immediately:
- Close all non-essential businesses — including fitness and recreation facilities, casinos and bingo halls.
- Reduce essential business capacity to 25 per cent.
- Support business to keep employees on payroll, or ensure emergency supports are in place for people who lose work.
- Keep schools at level three of the Sask. Safe School Plan.
- Allow bars and restaurants to operate as take-out or delivery only services.
- Restore the moratorium on residential evictions and stop clawing back housing and income assistance.
On Wednesday, Meili said a circuit breaker strategy would prevent a wider, full-scale lockdown like what happened in the spring.
He said while there would be temporary losses, they wouldn't hit as hard as more extreme lockdown measures could.
"What I want to see is us get this right now, so the holidays come and we actually get to have Christmas," Meili said.
He acknowledged holiday gatherings would still be smaller than in a normal year, but said those gatherings could be bigger than is currently allowed if things go well.
Meili proposed the government reintroduce the Saskatchewan Small Business Emergency Payment Program, with fixes to make it more accessible to businesses. He also called on the provincial government to provide support to businesses not eligible for federal support.
He proposed the creation of a grant that would allow small businesses to upgrade to online retailing, in-person delivery platforms or virtual delivery.
Meili also called on the Saskatchewan Health Authority to resume publishing COVID-19 exposure information — which it stopped doing recently — saying the information was beneficial to the public.
"We need to trust Saskatchewan people," Meili said.
"Share the information that we have and what communities this is happening in ... so that people can make informed decisions."
Government staying course
On Tuesday, before the NDP had proposed its ideas, Premier Scott Moe pushed back against a circuit breaker plan and said it was essentially another lockdown.
Health Minister Paul Merriman responded directly to the NDP's calls on Wednesday afternoon.
Merriman cited Moe's comments from Tuesday and said the NDP's proposed "wide-scale shutdown" would put Saskatchewan residents out of work.
"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.
Merriman's statement said the government intends to consult people in the hospitality, faith, recreation and athletic communities on further measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19.