Premier says province working on reopening more recreation facilities for Sask. kids
Parents ask why playgrounds are staying closed when more services opening in Phase 3 Monday
The Saskatchewan government says it is working on guidelines for playgrounds and other outdoor recreation activities following criticism from parents and the NDP that the provincial reopening plan does not do enough for children.
"We most certainly hear you, and we are working very hard to come up with some parameters where we can safely get our kids out and get back to a new normal in our communities," Premier Scott Moe said at a news conference on Thursday.
Saskatchewan parents have questioned why playgrounds and other children's facilities are not reopening when more options for adults, such as restaurants, will reopen — with some limitations — in Phase 3 on Monday.
Regina mom Heather Woolhouse said she wants more answers to give her children about when they will be allowed to resume their favourite activities.
"I can go and get a manicure and a pedicure and get my hair cut and get a new outfit and go to a restaurant with my friends," said Woolhouse.
"Well my kids' version of going to a restaurant with their friends is going for a picnic at the park with their friends."
To date, Saskatchewan's reopening plan offers fewer options for children's learning and recreation activities than other western provinces.
Playgrounds have reopened in British Columbia, Alberta (unless prohibited by a municipality) and Manitoba.
Skate parks and basketball courts have reopened in Manitoba.
"We're working very hard on how we would be able to work with organizations to ensure that we can open these facilities sooner rather than later, and we'll have more to say on that next week," said Moe.
Outdoor sports coming in Phase 4, date TBD
Individual sports — such as golf — were allowed under Phase 1 of the province's reopening. Other outdoor sports will be included in Phase 4, which the province said Thursday will now take place in two parts.
Sports will open in the first part of Phase 4, along with child and youth day camps, outdoor pools and spray parks.
Libraries and museums will reopen in the second part of the same phase. No Phase 4 dates have been announced.
Earlier in the day, the Saskatchewan NDP held a news conference to call for more children's activities to resume.
"We're calling for clear guidance on when libraries can reopen, and playgrounds," said Opposition Leader Ryan Meili.
"We think it's time for those to reopen, that it's already something that can be managed. There will need to be changes in how they're used from regular, but it can be managed."
'Needs to be some oversight'
Dr. Saqib Shahab, Saskatchewan's chief medical health officer, said work is underway to develop rules for playground use.
"There needs to be some oversight in terms of how children engage, in terms of reducing crowding and hand sanitization before and after using structures," he said.
"You can't expect municipalities to sanitize them in any meaningful way on a day-to-day basis."
Parents will need to be aware of supervising children, he said, and "accept some low level of transmission risk in those outdoor environments."
The NDP also called for safe and affordable access to child care for parents returning to work, and an extension to the SaskTel's waiving of data overage charges until the end of June.