The Saskatchewan NDP is urging the province and its residents to consider “disruptive” measures to control the spread of COVID-19 and maintain a holiday season.
A breaker would be a period of high restrictions designed to stop the spread of COVID-19 and relieve pressure on the healthcare system.
At a news conference Wednesday, NDP opposition leader Ryan Meili said the government’s response to the second wave of COVID-19 was too slow. Meili outlined some measures he wanted to see the government take effect immediately:
- Close all non-core businesses including fitness and recreation facilities, casinos and bingo halls.
- Reduce core business capacity to 25 percent.
- Support the business to keep employees on the payroll, or provide emergency support for people who lose their jobs.
- Keep schools at level three of Sask. Safe School Plan.
- Allow bars and restaurants to function only as pick-up or drop-off services.
- Reinstall the housing eviction moratorium and stop income and housing assistance.
On Wednesday, Meili said a switching strategy would prevent a wider, full-scale blockage, as happened in the spring.
He said that while there would be temporary losses, they would not hit as hard as they could take the most extreme blocking measures.
“What I want to see is that we get this now, so the holidays come and we actually have to have Christmas,” Meili said.
He acknowledged that holiday gatherings would still be smaller than a normal year, but said those gatherings could be larger than currently allowed if things went well.
Meili proposed that the government reinstate the Small Business Emergency Payments Program in Saskatchewan, with adjustments to make it more accessible to businesses. He also called on the provincial government to provide support to illegal businesses for federal support.
Heproposed the creation of a grant that would allow small businesses to improve on online retail, in-delivery platforms or virtual delivery.
Meilialso called on the Saskatchewan Health Authority to resume publishing information on COVID-19 exposure, which he recently stopped doing, saying the information was useful to the public.
“We have to trust the people of Saskatchewan,” Meili said.
“Share the information we have and in which communities this is happening … so that people can make informed decisions.”
Government staying on course
On Tuesday, before the NDP had proposed its ideas, Prime Minister Scott Moe pulled back against a blackout plan and said it was essentially another deadlock.
Health Minister Paul Merriman responded directly to NDP calls Wednesday afternoon.
Merriman quoted Moe as commenting Tuesday and said the “large-scale closure” proposed by the NDP would fire Saskatchewan residents.
“This is exactly what we are trying to avoid through the measures announced in recent days, which have been created to slow down the spread of COVID-19 without closing businesses,” Merriman said in a written statement.
Merriman’s statement said the government intends to advise people in hospitality, trust, recreation and athletic communities on further measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
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