Saskatchewan unveils 'roadmap' to ease pandemic restrictions

Saskatchewan's government may ease most COVID-19 public health restrictions as early as mid-July.

Saskatoon StarPhoenix 4 minute read May 5, 2021

The Saskatchewan government may ease most COVID-19 public health restrictions as early as mid-July under a three-step “roadmap” to loosening measures, released Tuesday.

Saskatchewan is the first province to release such a plan, which outlines a gradual easing of restrictions based on how many people in given age cohorts have received their first dose of a vaccine.

There are buffers of at least three weeks between different phases of the plan, which “may be paused to respond to COVID-transmission trends at regional or provincial levels,” and pressures on the province’s hospital system, according to the province.


“Reopening your economy, your community, is not a light switch that you flick on — you’re in full lockdown or in some measure of lockdown one day, and the next day you just kick the barn doors open and you’re all running out in the fields free. That most certainly isn’t the way this works,” Premier Scott Moe said.

Step one, tentatively expected in late May, will begin three weeks after 70 per cent of people aged 40 and older have received their first dose of vaccine. The vaccines need three weeks to fully take effect. As of Tuesday, 65 per cent of that cohort had received their first shot.

At that point:

— Indoor inter-household gatherings of up to 10 people will be allowed;

— Churches and other religious centres can host services with up to 30 per cent of their usual capacity;

— Restaurants and bars can welcome up to six guests per table indoors;

— Group fitness classes can resume with three metres between participants;

— Outdoor events of up to 150 people can be held.

The second step will be activated three weeks after 70 per cent of residents over the age of 30 get the jab and at least three weeks after the start of step one. At that point:

— Capacity limits on personal care services, retail and indoor dining will be lifted — though physical distancing requirements will remain;

— A maximum of 150 people will be permitted at casinos, bingo halls, theatres and other recreational facilities;

— Restrictions on youth sports will be lifted.

The last step of the plan, which the province estimates could be activated as soon as mid-July, would take effect three weeks after 70 per cent of adults have received their first dose of a vaccine and at least three weeks after the beginning of step two.

The province says that is when “most remaining restrictions will be lifted,” but it’s not yet clear if that includes gatherings size limits or an end to the mandated wearing of masks in indoor public spaces.

Public Health Agency of Canada recommendations released last month suggest at least 75 per cent of all adults should have their first dose and 20 per cent should be fully vaccinated before restrictions can be relaxed without risking another wave of infections in the fall.

“We base our decision on what has actually worked in other countries versus modelling,” Moe said when asked why Saskatchewan’s plan does not follow that guideline.

Step three will not mark the end of Saskatchewan’s immunization campaign. Chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab said the province expects to start administering second doses of vaccine in June. The province will continue monitoring transmission trends locally and provincially.

“We’re in this for the long term. COVID is not going away … we’re not safe until the world is vaccinated,” Shahab said.


Moe said the plan could go awry if vaccines do not arrive as expected, if not enough people get a shot or if people stop following public health measures in the meantime.

He said he would not entertain the idea of a ‘vaccine passport’ or special privileges for vaccinated people, but urged people who are hesitant to “get off that fence.”

“On one side of that fence, people are living. On the other side of that fence, people are dying,” Moe said.

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