After a summer with no public health measures, masks are returning to public indoor spaces in Saskatchewan, and soon there will be a number of businesses, establishments and event venues that will require proof of vaccination. The announcement was made by Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe ahead of a press conference this afternoon.
“For the past several months, you have heard me repeat a very simple message over and over – get vaccinated,” said Moe in the statement released on social media. “The vast majority of Saskatchewan people have done their part. Unfortunately, today, we are faced with a fourth wave resulting in increased case numbers and a significant capacity pressure on our health care system which is close to exceeding what we have faced before.”
Moe then called out those who are unvaccinated against COVID-19 are a driving force behind these concerns.
“New cases are overwhelmingly in unvaccinated people. Hospitalizations are overwhelmingly unvaccinated people,” Moe added. “The evidence from the data that we have seen is quite clear. As a province and as a government we have been very patient, possibly too patient. The time for patience is now over.”
Starting on Friday, an interim order re-instituting a masking mandate for public indoor spaces will again be implemented in Saskatchewan. The order is targeted to be lifted by the end of October. By then, a proof of vaccination policy will have been in effect for a few weeks. The masking rule won't be in place for indoor youth athletics while engaged in sporting activities. Masking in venues hosting athletics will remain required for general entry and exit into the facility for spectators and athletes.
The proof of vaccination, or proof of a negative COVID-19 test, takes effect October 1st. Proof of vaccination or negative test requirements will also be needed for indoor dining at restaurants, nightclubs, bars, taverns and other licensed establishments, event and entertainment venues, including conference centres, movie theatres, concert venues and indoor facilities hosting ticketed sporting events. The requirement will also be in place for indoor fitness centres and gyms.
Places that will not need the proof of vaccination include retail businesses, places of worship, fast food restaurants offering takeout and delivery, health care services, facilities hosting non-ticketed amateur sporting events including youth athletics and recreational leagues and places of business closed to the general public. Children under 12 are exempt from the proof of vaccination or negative test requirement.
The verifiable vaccination record, which will be a QR code, will be launched next week. Other proofs of vaccination that will be accepted are a screenshot of the eHealth vaccination record or the card received at the time of vaccination. The protocols for people to provide a negative COVID-19 test instead of a vaccination record are being developed.
In addition to the masking and vaccination policies, all Government of Saskatchewan employees, as well as employees of provincial Crown corporations and agencies, will be required to be vaccinated, with proof required by October 1st. Those who are unable to provide proof of vaccination will need to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test.
For testing, the province is looking to expand access to rapid-antigen tests for home-based screening. Residents will be able to obtain the rapid-antigen tests for use as a screening tool at a number of locations operated by the Saskatchewan Health Authority and partner agencies. The recommendation to seek PCR testing and stay home at the first sign of any symptoms is still in place.