La Loche calls on province to close SLGA liquor store due to COVID-19 outbreak
SHA officials say people drinking together is contributing to the spread of the virus
The Village of La Loche is calling on the provincial government to force the closure of liquor stores in the community, which is in the throes of a COVID-19 outbreak.
"We've just put in a request to Government Relations Minister Lori Carr," said Mayor Robert St. Pierre Friday morning.
"The council passed a resolution on closing liquor sales in our community so we'll see where that ends up."
The northern Saskatchewan community is the epicentre of an outbreak in Saskatchewan's far north region, which accounts for 138 of the province's 196 active cases.
A community update posted online Thursday evening said 111 of the active cases in the far north region are in La Loche and 18 are in the nearby community Clearwater River Dene Nation.
Also included in the update were messages from Saskatchewan Health Authority officials, who said people drinking together are contributing to the spread of COVID-19.
"The reason why we have a lot of spread is: People drinking together, sharing smokes, driving together," said a message attributed to northern medical health officer Dr. Rim Zayed.
"It is mostly young people who know they have low risk factors, but it is very harmful to others who are vulnerable."
Province will consider request
Rural and Remote Health Minister Warren Kaeding was asked if the province will close the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming liquor store — which is provincially run.
"We will certainly give that consideration," said Kaeding, adding that he is working with community leaders to determine what they think is best for their citizens.
Dr. Saqib Shahab, Saskatchewan's chief medical health officer, confirmed Thursday the majority of cases in the far north are young people.
Of the total 531 COVID-19 cases in Saskatchewan, 71 are aged 19 and under. A further 188 are aged 20 to 39.
St. Pierre said the leadership is also working with the health authority to fast-track the launch of an alcohol support program.
"It's a long-term program but we are trying to administer it real quick because if we want to close our liquor store to contain the traffic in the community to stop the mobility … we have to speed that up," he said.
"We want to make sure we are considering [people with alcohol dependencies] so we don't flood our health facility with their conditions."