Sask. quietly updates self-isolation directions as province insists fines can still be issued

The process has been made significantly more complicated by the province's decision to lift all COVID-19 restrictions on July 11. 

The province has outlined a convoluted process to punish those not self-isolating after testing positive

Saskatchewan Health Minister Paul Merriman gave a COVID-19 update on Sept. 29. He encouraged residents to get vaccinated against COVID-19 ‘as soon as possible’ as Saskatchewan sets hospitalization records for COVID-19. (Matt Duguid/CBC)

Saskatchewan has quietly updated its web page on COVID-19 self-isolation directions as it insists that individuals can still be punished for violating directions that are no longer mandatory. 

The process has been made significantly more complicated by the province's decision to lift all COVID-19 restrictions on July 11. 

Before lifting restrictions, anyone who tested positive for the virus was required to self-isolate at home for at least 10 days. 

Sask. health minister Paul Merriman defends decision to not make self-isolation mandatory after COVID-19 diagnosis

2 years ago
Duration 2:31
Self-isolation is no longer enforceable under a public health order for those who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or may have been exposed to the virus

The province's website on self-isolation rules made it clear.

"Those who receive a positive COVID-19 test must self-isolate for 10 days from their first symptoms" the website blared in bold text, according to a cached version from July 9

A helpful link was even provided for further information on mandatory isolation. 

The province's directions on self-isolation as of July 9, 2021. (Government of Saskatchewan)

Once restrictions were lifted on July 11 the language was modified.

The bolded text was removed and the instructions now read: "anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 must self-isolate immediately at home or in another suitable environment for at least 10 days." 

The province's directions on self-isolation as of July 11, 2021. (Government of Saskatchewan)

Left out from the web page was that the province's instructions were no longer an automatic requirement. 

Previously anyone found violating the self-isolation requirements could be issued a $2,800 fine under the public health act.

Police forces were empowered to issue those fines.

But the lifting of restrictions means police no longer have the legal capacity to issue tickets for failing to self isolate at their discretion. 

But now, according to the province, an individual found to not be complying with the direction can be ordered to do so by a medical health officer under section 38 of the Public Health Act. 

Only then could an individual face a $2,800 fine. It's still unclear who will be responsible for enforcing these rules.

In a Thursday morning interview on CBC Radio's The Morning Edition, Saskatchewan Health Minister Paul Merriman emphasized that the province was relying on personal responsibility to help halt the spread of the virus. 

"We're putting the responsibility back on the individual to be able to make sure that they isolate," he said. 

After the interview, the province's website was updated once again. 

This time the website makes it clear that there is no longer a requirement.

"Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 may be required to self-isolate immediately," the website now reads

The province's direction on self-isolation as of July 29, 2021. (Government of Saskatchewan)

Hours after the interview, the province issued a statement to reporters saying that the direction to self-isolate has "been and continues to be provided by public health officials to all individuals who test positive for COVID-19." 

Left out of the statement is the information that even an individual is directed, the province has no enforcement mechanism to make an individual immediately self-isolate.

With files from CBC Radio's The Morning Edition