The Saskatchewan Party government, which has repeatedly said people need to “learn to live with COVID-19,” is renewing its state of emergency.
Premier Scott Moe signed an order-in-council on Wednesday to extend the emergency order “to address the COVID-19 public health emergency.”
The order will renew Monday, the same day Saskatchewan is to lift all remaining pandemic restrictions, including an indoor mask mandate and the requirement to self-isolate after testing positive for COVID-19.
Saskatchewan’s state of emergency order, which gives the government power to redirect health-care workers, was re-enacted in September during the Delta wave.
It also gives the government broad authority to control travel within the province, to take control of the emergency response of a local authority and to require people to comply with any health orders.
Moe has said the order will be used only to provide flexibility to move health-care workers where needed.
“It’s in place simply for that reason. It’s not there for any other enforcement reasons,” Moe said last week.
A spokesperson for the premier’s office said Thursday the order will remain in place until health-care staff no longer need to be redeployed.
The latest data from the Ministry of Health shows COVID-19 hospitalizations have started to decline after peaking last week. As of Wednesday, there were 372 people in hospital with the infection, including 27 in intensive care.
The province reported 37 new deaths between Feb. 13 and Feb. 19 and a weekly test positivity rate of 14.4 per cent.
“You’ve got a government that’s still admitting we’re in the middle of a pandemic, admitting we’re still in a health crisis, and is removing every single measure that could actually reduce that health crisis,” NDP Opposition Leader Ryan Meili said Thursday.
Meili took aim at the government for enforcing an order that he said targets health-care workers.
“This is a premier who is perfectly willing to ignore collective bargaining and send workers wherever he wants to send them, but not do a single thing to protect them or the patients they’re caring for,” Meili said. “This is deeply hypocritical and irresponsible.”
Tracy Zambory, president of the Saskatchewan Union of Nurses, said the pandemic has been an extremely difficult time for nurses who haven’t had a break since the pandemic began in March 2020.
“It feels the health and wellness of registered nurses is not being taken into account here and that we’re being forced to work where we’re working,” she said.
Having the emergency order in place signals health care is still in crisis in Saskatchewan, she said.
Last week, another order-in-council was signed to approve nearly $113 million in unbudgeted funding for the Saskatchewan Health Authority following requests from the ministers of finance and health. The money, which includes $40 million for programs and services, is to go directly to the health authority.
Zambory said she would like to see the province keep COVID-19 restrictions in place until the burden on hospitals and health facilities is reduced.
“(Nurses) are burnt out. They are tired. If there is an emergency order in place, then we should have the other protections in place as well,” she said.
“Yet leadership of the province doesn’t want to have anything in place to try to lessen the crisis we’re in. And for registered nurses that does not compute.”
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