Just three days into Phase 2 of the re-open Saskatchewan plan, the province is setting June 8 as the start date of Phase 3 of the re-open Saskatchewan plan.
Premier Scott Moe announced the latest re-opening target date on June 8 in order to allow the impacted businesses an opportunity to prepare for operating with a series of new requirements.
Businesses that can re-open on the second Monday of June include restaurants and bars, both at 50 per cent capacity, along with fitness facilities and gyms, plus child care facilities with a limit of 15 children per building space.
“I want to emphasize that June 8 is a target date. We hope to begin Phase Three on June 8, but that date can change in all, or in part, or in areas of the province depending on the situation with COVID-19 over the next couple of weeks,”Moe explained during a press conference on Thursday.
He stressed that the province continues to carefully monitor COVID-19 numbers, and relies on contact tracing and testing to keep on top of potential outbreaks.
“We wanted to get a date out that allowed for that monitoring to happen, but also allowed for the Phase Three businesses to start to prepare as many of them, restaurants for example, may be changing some of the structure of how their business operates in the way that grocery stores and others have over the last couple of months,” Moe said.
“We’ve just begun Phase 2 so it’s too early to tell what impact if any that it will have on our numbers. But we thought it was important to announce the date now so those Phase 3 business could begin preparing.”
Moe highlighted that the Phase Two and Phase Three re-openings are providing an important opportunity for residents to shop and support local businesses.
“Now is a great time to support Saskatchewan business as they re-open and as they bring back jobs into your community and mine. We just need to remember to do it safely. And I know we can because we have been.”
Effective June 8, restaurants will be opening at 50 per cent capacity and utilizing table service only, so there will be no buffets or salad bars offered.
Bars and lounges will also re-open at 50 per cent capacity, but patrons will be unable to utilize recreation areas including pool tables, dart boards, dance floors, and VLTs.
Gyms and fitness facilities can re-open but will need to maintain stringent cleaning and disinfecting protocols.
Places of worship have been added to Phase 3 after having originally being proposed for Phase 4. Moe noted that the province has been speaking with leaders from faith based organizations about how to safely expand worship activities, and the province expected to be able to provide further guidance in the coming days.
The maximum size of indoor gatherings will increase from 10 to 15 people, and up to 30 people will be allowed to gather outdoors as long as they are maintaining good physical distancing practices. The small group size will allow for modest outdoor wedding ceremonies, or small graveside memorial services.
An additional list of personal services which were not part of Phase 2 will be re-opening on June 8, and that list includes: Estheticians, Tattoo artists, Make-up applicators, Electrologists, Manicurists, Pedicurists, Sun tanning parlours, facilities in which body piercing, bone grafting or scarification services are provided, plus other personal service facilities.
The full rules and regulations will be posted on Saskatchewan’s COVID-19 website (www.saskatchewan.ca/re-open) on Friday when they are completed, as some specific details are still being finalized.
Saskatchewan Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab said the Phase Three plan will be a continuation of the successes the province has enjoyed through the first two phases of re-opening.
“Even if there’s an outbreak, if there’s a specific outbreak in a facility or in a sector or a workplace, while it’s very concerning, it doesn’t impact community transmission to the same extent.”
“We see more activity now out and about, both for recreation, and commerce and retail, I think we still need to pay attention to the little things – physical distancing, hand washing before and after, not going out if you’re sick – those are things we’ve all learned to do well and we need to continue to do well to make sure that we all succeed moving forward in this new normal.”
Dr. Shahab also stressed that group size numbers are maximums, and event organizers should strive to be reasonable in their group planning strategies.
“Just because it’s 30 doesn’t mean every gathering has to be 30. You still want to maintain physical distancing. You shouldn’t go if you’re unwell. You still need special precautions around people who are elderly or may have other risk factors, in terms of hugging and having extremely close contact.”
However, he is confident the increased gathering size will not be problematic if done properly.
“We feel very confident for most of Saskatchewan that with the efforts everyone has put in, we are at a place where we can move that up even a bit to phase three, especially for outdoor gatherings.”
“But I think we need to continue to apply the knowledge we’ve all gained over the last two to three months as we plan for outdoor gatherings.”
“We really need to work with business owners who have gone a long way to re-open in a safe manner, and support them in terms of shopping locally and purchasing items that we need locally. But being considerate in terms of picking what we need…and not having a lot of stuff moving off and on a shelf, and not crowding with each other when we need to get a particular item.”
“We feel very confident that phase two is going smoothly and we will be well prepared for a smooth re-opening for most of Saskatchewan in phase three.”