No lockdown should 2nd wave of COVID-19 hit Sask.: Chief medical health officer

Saskatchewan’s chief medical health officer has ruled out business closures in the event a second wave of COVID-19 hits the province. 

Dr. Saqib Shahab says small clusters of COVID-19 expected, but physical distancing and PPE key to mitigation

Saqib Shahab, chief medical health officer for Saskatchewan, speaks at a COVID-19 news update earlier this month. (Canadian Press)

Saskatchewan's chief medical health officer has ruled out restrictions like those that were in place earlier this year in the event a second wave of COVID-19 hits the province. 

In an interview with CBC News, Dr. Saqib Shahab said through late March and early April, he felt a sense of relief because Saskatchewan's residents went above and beyond what he expected when following the public health orders during the pandemic. 

Shahab said he feels as though the reopening plan has been systematically moving along since it was introduced. However he's prepared to see small clusters of COVID-19 through the summer of 2020 and beyond.

"We have to keep our capacity up to follow up on [the new cases], we have to make sure if [people] are symptomatic or otherwise concerned, you go for testing," Shahab said.

"We won't go into the same lockdown that we went into in March and April."

He acknowledged that at some point, interprovincial travel has to restart. First, practices must be in place that would allow different provinces to share case contact and investigations efficiently.

"A day feels like a week and a week feels like a month," Shahab said of time passing in 2020. "Work life has changed, home life has changed. Kids who were in school are at home." (Bryan Eneas/CBC)

Shahab said at some point, international travel must resume as well. 

"As long as we can manage that in a way of case contact and investigation and have some ability, on both sides [of the border] to manage travel where there's hotspots," he said.

Shahab noted Canadians travel in "record numbers" both domestically and internationally to visit friends and family and for business purposes. 

Tourism, he said, is likely going to be one of the later items to be addressed.

Physical distancing, PPE key going forward

The biggest challenge over the next few months, he said, will be ensuring people are still practicing physical distancing and ensuring group sizes are kept small. 

Shahab said ensuring people are keeping their interactions to a limited number of people and keeping large gatherings minimal will strengthen Saskatchewan's fight against COVID-19.

Shahab said conducting interviews at a distance, similar to the setup seen here, are elements of the 'new normal' COVID-19 has created. (Kirk Fraser/CBC News)

"It's a new normal, it's not back to business as usual," Shahab said of the future.

Because Saskatchewan isn't as densely populated as other parts of the country, he said it should be easy for residents to practise physical distancing, so in the fall he wants to shift his focus to public education around personal protective equipment (PPE). 

Be it face shields, masks or gloves, Shahab said he wants to ensure people are using personal protective equipment in a meaningful way, which he said could mitigate a potential second wave of COVID-19. 

WIth files from Sam Maciag


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