REGINA — Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe says further restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including school closures, will be balanced with trying to keep “some degree of normalcy” in the province.
The government announced Monday a plan to close all pre-kindergarten to Grade 12 classes indefinitely starting Friday. Daycares at schools are also to close, but stand-alone licensed daycare facilities can remain open.
The decision came a day after Dr. Saqib Shahab, the province’s chief medical health officer, announced that schools would remain open.
Moe told a news conference the situation is constantly evolving. He said one factor in deciding to close schools was news out of Alberta on Sunday that the novel coronavirus is spreading there through the community.
The government said there’s no evidence of community transmission in Saskatchewan.
That may change, Moe said, and the public should expect near daily briefings with updates.
“We will step up our restrictions as required on the advice of the medical community, on the advice of Dr. Shahab, in particular, as we go through the next number of days. And we’ll balance that with some degree of normalcy in our communities,” he said.
“We need to remain calm as a society as we move through this.”
The Ministry of Health said suspending classes is being done as a preventive measure. It wanted to give advance notice so that parents with limited child-care options have time to plan.
Shahab said he expects to see more travel-related cases of COVID-19 as Canadians abroad heed the federal government’s advice to return home.
“Since we expect to see more cases initially travel-related and at some point we will see community transmission, so we’re just leaning into it so that if and when that happens, we delay that as much as we can and we minimize further transmission,” he said.
The province announced one new case of COVID-19 on Monday, bringing the total in the province to seven. Two of those cases have been confirmed by the national laboratory in Winnipeg.
Saskatchewan also extended its ban on large gatherings of more than 250 people to places of worship and ordered only immediate family be allowed to visit loved ones in hospitals and long-term care homes.
The Opposition NDP reiterated its call Monday for the government to delay Wednesday’s introduction of the provincial budget, given the spread of COVID-19 as well as the drop in oil prices and stock market values.
NDP Leader Ryan Meili said without updated predictions taking these dramatic changes into account, the budget will be invalid.
The spending plan will be released as planned, Moe said, although the numbers are likely to change in the coming months to adjust to the economic impact of the virus and the cost on the health-care system to handle it.
In the legislature Monday, Moe said he was going to be toning down the political rhetoric as the government focuses on dealing with the outbreak.
“We have a common enemy and it’s a virus,” said Meili after question period.
“We need to be focused on the people of the province making sure that they’re able to avoid infection, get the treatment they need when they need it, and get the economic support, financial support to make it through this difficult time.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 16, 2020
Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press