Editorial: Measured reopening plan the right path

The Government of Saskatchewan’s approach to reopening the province should be described as measured, methodical and patient. 

And that’s likely what they were aiming for. 

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It’s obviously not going to make everyone happy. But nothing that any government does in a pandemic will satisfy everyone. 

For those who think the government is moving too quickly, they’ll pan the document, since Saskatchewan has consistently has averaged 200-plus cases a day for weeks, and since the province has not started the process of administering the second dose of vaccine. 

This province is also moving forward with a re-open plan at a time when other provinces are imposing restrictions due to their case counts.

For those who think the government has been too slow to lift pandemic-related restrictions, they won’t be happy, either, but they won’t be satisfied until the province is fully reopened.

The plan released last week gives us reasons for hope. Now that 70 per cent of people over the age of 40 have been vaccinated, certain restrictions  are scheduled to be lifted on May 30. (Of course, that is subject to change).

We’ll be able to have more people at restaurant tables, groups for fitness sessions, larger private indoor and outdoor gatherings, additional people at church services, and more people at public outdoor events. 

Phase 2, which would require 70 per cent of those over the age of 30 to have their first dose, could begin in mid-June. It would essentially bring us back to the level that we saw last September and early October, other than we’ll still have to wear masks in public, and private indoor gatherings would be limited to 15 instead of the 30 we had at Thanksgiving.

We could finally see retail return to previous levels, and perhaps most notably, the restrictions on team sports would be lifted.

Phase 3, which would require 70 per cent of adults over 18 to be vaccinated, is the most open-ended, but it hints that we could finally see much larger gatherings. 

Does that mean we’ll finally be able to have 30,000 fans for a Saskatchewan Roughriders home game at Mosaic Stadium, or 1,500 people in the grandstand at the Estevan Motor Speedway? Maybe not, but perhaps we could have 500 or 750 fans in the speedway grandstand in July. A trial run for large gatherings might be a practical move before allowing venues such as stadiums and arenas to be at capacity again.

It puts the pressure on the public to get vaccinated. Want to see team sports resume? Get vaccinated. Want to ditch your masks? Get vaccinated. Want to have larger crowds? Get vaccinated.  Want to have more than 15 people in a private gathering? Get vaccinated.

The restrictions from the province have been largely unchanged since late last year. We had a brief increase in the number of people who could come together for a private indoor gathering, and an increase in the number of people who could attend a church service.

We’ve seen changes at the local and regional level, but not from the province.

You might not like the restrictions, or you might not think they go far enough, but we have largely avoided the frustration that other provinces have had with constantly changing public health orders.

We’ll see whether the government is able to pull off this plan, if it’s able to meet its target dates, and if it has to make abrupt changes. If we have a huge surge in cases in the days leading up to the first phase May 30, will the government still be eager to reopen? 

The government might also choose to hold off on reopening in areas with higher active case counts, which is what we saw last spring.

But at least we have a plan, with numbers for how many people need to be vaccinated, and information on what could be open once again, so that the affected businesses and organizations can be ready.  

© Copyright Estevan Mercury

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