Saskatchewan’s pandemic response as adequate, but enforced too late

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Premier Moe speaking while seated at a table in front of the flags of Canada and Saskatchewan the leader post

Does addressing the problem once it’s overwhelming count as respecting medical professionals?

by hammad ali, Contributor

Just yesterday, I was speaking to a friend about how we are close to one year since the University moved online and we sort of went into lockdown. My friend commented ruefully that it has only been one year since we went into a two-week lockdown to flatten the curve. We laughed a bit at the irony of that sentence, but it also got me thinking.

I will first acknowledge that the situation in Saskatchewan could have been far worse. However, I also understand that given our population, we have not done a very good job of containing the spread of the virus. It seems to me that we have taken all the measures and steps that scientists have been recommending. Why then are we still not confident that the worst of it is behind us for those of us here in Saskatchewan? I follow the government announcements, and it always seems that after a few days of positive trends, we regress into a high number of new cases. Almost every region of the province has seen alarming spikes, and most recently Regina has been seeing an uptick in new cases, with talks of a potentially more contagious variants being the reason. What seems to be the issue?

I for one think that this seeming contradiction can be explained by one simple observation. The Government of Saskatchewan has taken all the measures recommended, but it is almost like they have always taken these measures just a couple of weeks too late from the ideal date. Whether it be the social distancing measures last spring, or the mask mandate sometime in the late summer, the government was late in announcing and enforcing them. Even when measures are announced, they are hardly enforced. I remember the first few weeks after the mask order on transit, when I saw many people boarding a bus without a mask. No one stopped them. They were not refused service, which frankly I believe should have been done. Anyone is welcome to exercise their right to not follow public health orders, but then public transit should also have the right to turn them away, for the sake of all those other passengers like myself who were trying to be careful.

I am aware that mine might be a very unpopular stance. It seems to me that even the government has been very cautious about being seen as impinging on the freedom of the people of the province. In doing so, however, they have made the proverbial band-aid that much more painful to take off. If we went in full force, and implemented all the measures the rest of Canada was doing instead of thinking we are not as densely populated and will be fine, maybe by now the numbers would be manageable and life could slowly return to normal. Instead, we have been drawing out a scary and stressful process, and have caused damage to the economy, public health, and mental health sectors in Saskatchewan. I personally feel that the government’s shying away from taking strong measures and enforcing them appropriately also played a role in certain citizens treating our medical officer Dr. Saqib Shahab as a scapegoat and a target of their racist tirades. The Premier, Scott Moe keeps talking about how much he respects Dr. Shahab. Maybe he could show it by taking the doctor’s work a little more seriously?

We are almost at the one year mark. Warmer weather is hopefully not too far away, and there is reason to hope that vaccines will be coming in at a faster rate over the next few weeks. We may escape this pandemic yet, without any more major losses. As many experts are already telling us, as far as viruses go COVID-19 is not a particularly fatal one. However, as experts then add, a more dangerous variation might not be too far off.

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