Sask. renews emergency order, as other public health measures are set to expire Feb. 28

The Saskatchewan government has renewed its emergency order, while letting other public health measures expire at the end of February.

Cabinet renews emergency order to help direct COVID-19 health-care effort

The Saskatchewan government has renewed its emergency order, which allows the Saskatchewan Health Authority to deploy workers where it sees fit to help deal with COVID-19. (Chaikom/Shutterstock)

The Saskatchewan government has renewed its emergency order, while letting other public health measures expire at the end of February. 

The order first went into effect last September, to allow health-care workers to be redeployed when there was a surge of COVID-19 cases during the Delta wave.

The order was renewed by cabinet on Feb. 9 and was set to expire at the end of the month.

On Feb. 16, Premier Scott Moe said the state of emergency was needed in the province because the Saskatchewan Health Authority cannot redirect health-care resources to respond to COVID-19 needs without it.

The premier has decided to keep the order active until health-care staff don't need to be redeployed anymore, according to a government spokesperson.

Public health orders for mandatory masking and five-day self-isolation were renewed on Feb. 13 but will expire on Feb. 28. Moe has said they will not be renewed.

On Feb. 13, the government rescinded the proof of vaccination or negative test order.

When the order was re-introduced in September 2021, the government said it was needed to "provide for health system labour mobility through greater flexibility in scheduling and redirecting health-care workers to areas experiencing capacity pressures and in the use of supplementary resources. The provisions are effective immediately."

Before implementing the order in September, the government indicated the SHA and health sector unions were working toward a letter of understanding about worker mobility, but an agreement was not reached.

At the time, one union said the province provided an ultimatum, which was not the right approach.

The emergency order was introduced three days before the province implemented mandatory masking, proof of vaccination, or negative testing policies. 

Meili says government 'hypocritical'

Opposition NDP Leader Ryan Meili said the government is admitting the COVID-19 situation in Saskatchewan is not good by extending the emergency order despite ending all other public health measures on Monday.

"It's telling that a government that is otherwise trying to indicate to people that the pandemic is over, trying to eliminate any protections in place for public health, eliminating access to testing access to information is, however, admitting that the pandemic is ongoing and that they need to redeploy health-care workers to respond," Meili said.

He remains concerned about the lack of public information about current hospitalizations and deaths related to COVID-19.

The province moved to weekly reporting a few weeks ago and remains the only province not to provide daily COVID-19 data.

"I think what should accompany this is a statement from the premier that says the pandemic isn't over and stop trying to convince people to act as if everything is normal."

Meili said the emergency order and having to move staff "on the fly" is an admission by the government of a "very serious and ongoing problem."

"I think the word we're looking for here is hypocritical. This is a government who is pretending COVID is over and reducing every bit of information people have to protect themselves, reducing every measure to protect the public, including all of those under five who can't be vaccinated, all those who don't yet have the vaccination."

With files from Ethan Williams