Sask. reaches first vaccination threshold for reopening, Step 1 expected May 30

The Government of Saskatchewan has marked May 30, 2021, as a tentative start day for Step One of the provincial reopening plan.

Businesses need to take slow, cautious approach as loosened restrictions loom: expert

According to Premier Scott Moe, 13,651 people were vaccinated against COVID-19 on Sunday, setting a new provincial one-day record. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

Saskatchewan has reached the first COVID-19 vaccination threshold laid out in its its reopening plan and Step One of the plan is expected to begin later this month.

Premier Scott Moe announced Sunday that 71 per cent of people over the age of 40 have now been vaccinated, meeting the criteria the provincial government has set out to begin reopening the province.

The reopening date is now tentatively set for May 30, three weeks after the vaccination target was reached.

Step One of the plan will mean household bubbles can expand to ten people and public indoor gatherings will be allowed for up to 30 people.

Restaurants and bars will be able to reopen, with a maximum of six people at a table and two metres between tables.

Places of worship will be allowed to open at 30 per cent of capacity, or 150 people, whichever is less, with physical distancing between households.

On Sunday, Moe said the province had 13,651 vaccinated the previous day, the most in one day so far.

The province noted 59 per cent of adults 30 and older have been vaccinated so far. For Phase Two of the province's reopening plan, 70 per cent of people over 30 will have to be vaccinated.

Business plan

Business leaders in downtown Saskatoon are ready to welcome back patrons, but they know they'll have to take it slow. Experts say a calm and cautious approach is needed. 

"Unless we want to have a resurgence and a fourth wave we're going to have to do so very, very cautiously and very carefully, so I think all businesses need to get that message," said Dr. Cory Neudorf, a professor at the University of Saskatchewan's Department of Community Health and Epidemiology and public-health physician. 

Neudorf says business leaders need to maintain best practices, similar to what they adopted last spring after Saskatchewan's initial COVID-19 restrictions were lifted. He said that with the presence of variants, even more care must be taken. He also noted a more complete reopening won't be able to happen safely until more people get their second dose of the vaccine. 

"I think we have a bit of work ahead of us yet," said Neudorf.

The relaxed restrictions will allow an increase in the number of people allowed to sit at a table in a restaurant, climbing from four to six, will see households be able to mingle again and also see gathering numbers climb as well. 

Brent Penner is the executive director of the DTNYXE Business Improvement District in Saskatoon. He says businesses have been following best practices closely for months and he's confident that work will continue, even as businesses get busier. 

"We're certainly looking forward to the ability to have more people in restaurants, hopefully more people willing to travel, those sorts of things, but I think the mere fact we've been doing this now for well over a year, people know what to expect." 

Penner says in his own experiences shopping downtown, he constantly sees people keeping their distance from one another and businesses taking steps to protect themselves like counting customers and offering hand-sanitizing stations. 

He also stressed its important for people to continue being respectful and patient as businesses see a pick up in patrons.

"It's basic," he said. "Treat those employees as you'd like to be treated in that situation."

Premier Scott Moe said in a news release on Sunday while the Government of Saskatchewan has reached its first threshold for re-opening, its ambitions around vaccinations are "not slowing down."

"In fact, they are speeding up," said Moe in the release. 

As of Sunday, more than 50 per cent of all Saskatchewan adults have now received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.