Saskatchewan

NDP calls for Sask. government to co-ordinate manufacturing of non-medical masks for public

As calls for non-medical mask-wearing increase across Canada, the Saskatchewan NDP is calling on the provincial government to co-ordinate the manufacturing and distribution of masks to the general public.

Canada's top doctor says non-medical masks can help stop the spread of COVID-19

Saskatchewan Opposition Leader Ryan Meili wears a homemade mask he put together using a bandanna, elastics and a paper towel. Meili wants the provincial government to help people get cloth masks. (Ryan Meili/YouTube)

As calls for non-medical mask-wearing increase across Canada, the Saskatchewan NDP is calling on the provincial government to co-ordinate the manufacturing and distribution of masks to the general public.

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's top doctor, said Monday that people could wear non-medical masks to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

She said wearing a mask is an added layer of protection that can help prevent pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic people from inadvertently infecting others with COVID-19.

The recommendation represents an about-face for the public health officer — who until now has resisted the idea of non-health care professionals wearing masks. She said the policy change comes in response to "emerging information" from the science and medical community.

Dr. Anne Huang, former Deputy Medical Health Officer in Saskatchewan talks about the different kinds of masks available and if you should wear one when going out in public. 5:39

On Sunday, NDP Leader Ryan Meili called for Saskatchewan residents to wear non-medical masks.

"Saskatchewan people can do their part in limiting the spread of COVID-19 by wearing simple cloth masks when they need to be out in public,"  Meili said. 

Meili even posted a video showing people how to make their own mask with a bandanna, elastics and a paper towel.

On Monday, Meili called on the province to help more people get non-medical masks.

"People can make simple cloth masks at home with basic materials, but the province can play an important role in advancing mass production of made-in-Saskatchewan cloth masks. I urge the province to step up and help spur Saskatchewan ingenuity to get this moving." 

#Masks4All

A #Masks4All movement has sprung up online in recent weeks. It gained momentum on Friday with the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommending all Americans wear non-medical masks.

Saskatchewan's chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab did not fully endorse mask-wearing by the general public at a news conference Friday. He stressed personal protective equipment (PPE) should be reserved for medical professionals and front-line workers.

Shahab said that Southeast Asian countries had success with wearing masks by the general public but that in many cases the public in those countries cannot avoid crowded situations. He said that in Saskatchewan the mass transit situation is much different and that there are wide-open spaces and quiet streets.

Shahab said wearing a mask is not a reason to relax other measures taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

"We have to remember that still doesn't mean you should start crowding together wearing a mask. You have to maintain that two-metre separation."

Shahab reinforced his point Monday, saying mask-wearing should not replace existing measures, which are preventing COVID-19 from spreading.

He called the direction of the federal government a "soft recommendation" to use non-medical masks.

Premier Scott Moe said Monday that the government is not looking at producing cloth masks and supplying them to the public.

"If people are more comfortable wearing a mask, they should do so. They should not be using a medical-grade mask," Moe said.

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 12 years. He hosts the CBC podcast On the Ledge. Follow him on Twitter @AHiddyCBC. Contact him: adam.hunter@cbc.ca

with files from John Paul Tasker and Morgan Modjeski

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