Saskatchewan premier Scott Moe is scheduled to address the province tonight at 6 p.m. to recap where Saskatchewan stands six weeks into the pandemic. Then on Thursday morning the government is supposed to unveil a plan to begin loosening restrictions on economic activity.
Discussions of this type are taking place around the world. In countries that have had success in limiting the spread of the virus, such as South Korea, Taiwan and New Zealand, there is cautious optimism that this can be done safely. In countries/jurisdictions where the pandemic is still spreading, though, suggestions that widespread economic activity could be resumed are generally seen as contrary to public health interests.
As a relatively remote province with a small, widely dispersed population, Saskatchewan was likely never going to be at risk for a major outbreak. And with the measures the province has put in place, we have been reasonably successful at limiting the spread of COVID-19.
As of April 22, Saskatchewan’s case total was 320. But regardless of what plans the government has to open up the economy, the fact remains that other provinces such as Quebec (20,126 cases), Ontario (12,245) and Alberta (3095) are still struggling to bring the pandemic under control. As for B.C., its case total of 1724 is somewhat high too. But after an early surge in infections, the province, with a population of five million, has done well at limiting the virus’s spread.
The Alberta situation is especially concerning as in recent days there have been several large outbreaks in meat plants. Concern has also been expressed about remote work camps and oil sands operations. So the Saskatchewan government needs to be cautious in opening up businesses that employ/draw large numbers of people.
Then there’s the situation in the U.S. where, as of noon today, the case total was 829,392 and death toll was 46,149. Most of the states in Saskatchewan’s immediate trading area have relatively low case totals. But with the integrated nature of our modern economy, it’s an open question how broad of an economic reboot the government could orchestrate with a large swath of Canada and the U.S. still in lockdown.
Public health officials have said, too, that if you lift restrictions too quickly/widely, then have to reintroduce them, it demoralizes people by making them feel like they are back to square one. So it will be interesting to see what balance the province tries to strike.