REGINA—Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe says his province is on its way out of the COVID-19 pandemic as his government lifted a ban on household visits and told places of worship that they can hold larger services, just in time for Easter.
Starting Tuesday, Saskatchewan residents can have up to 10 people inside their homes, though the province’s top doctor said they should be from the same two or three households.
Moe also announced that starting March 19, attendance at worship services can expand to 150 people or 30 percent capacity, whichever is less. The previous limit was 30 people.
The move to loosen public health measures came as the province reported community spread of more contagious COVID-19 variants and an increase in cases in the Regina area.
“This is a good day for Saskatchewan,” Moe said at a Tuesday briefing
“A year ago we were going into COVID-19, today we’re coming out of COVID.”
He called the relaxing of restrictions a “cautious approach.”
He said it also “shows that we respect and trust the people of the province that they are going to make decisions that are in the best interest of not only them but their family.”
The premier said the number of people in hospital has stabilized compared to earlier in the winter. The volume of new daily cases now sits at around 140, down from about 250 in January.
Moe said a larger supply of vaccines is another factor that makes it safe to lift some public health measures.
Residents 70 and older are getting their first shots and health officials say doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine would be made available to people aged 60 to 64 in Regina through drive-thru clinics in the near future.
The Health Ministry said a provincial lab’s scan of positive cases over the past two months found 35 more variant cases, mostly in the Regina area.
On Tuesday, Saskatchewan led the country with the highest rate of active cases per capita in Canada. Another 113 new infections were reported and the province’s seven-day average of new daily cases sat at 141.
The Saskatchewan Health Authority warned doctors in a virtual town hall last week that existing public health measures had failed to drive down test positivity below five percent or meet other targets.
A senior medical health officer told physicians that allowing people to have guests in their homes was a risk because more transmissible strains of COVID-19 are in the province.
By Stephanie Taylor