Column: Cautious COVID-19 optimism

Premier Scott Moe continued on his message from the previous week regarding the forthcoming “reopening Saskatchewan” plan amid more positive drops in COVID-19 numbers.

With what we have seen around the world in places like Japan in regards second waves of the virus, you can’t help but think Moe’s enthusiasm to get the economy rolling again may be short-sighted and a possible jump of the proverbial gun.

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Hokkaido became the first place in Japan to declare a state of emergency due to COVID-19. Much like the rest of us, large gatherings were cancelled and people were told to stay home, along with schools being closed.

The shutdown worked. By mid-March the number of new cases, much like in Saskatchewan, dropped to one or two a day. On March 19 the emergency was lifted and shortly after schools reopened.

Around a month later, Hokkaido had to implement yet another state of emergency due to a surge of new cases.

While Hokkaido’s population is around four times the size of Saskatchewan’s, there should still be some concern around trying to get things back to business as usual so quickly.

You have to commend the chief medical health officer along with the Saskatchewan Health Authority. In conjunction with the province, Saskatchewan has had immense successes on the front of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The people have Saskatchewan have also done their part. All around, the province has dealt with this outbreak much better than many other places. That has to be recognized.

We are lucky we have not seen the death rates other provinces and places around the globe have seen. That is all a part of a greater collective effort.

Everyone is hurting. In March, Saskatchewan saw a loss of 21,000 jobs. That number is sure to grow as the state of emergency has been extended for another two weeks and it has been over a month since our first initial case.

Moe continued in multiple press conferences over the previous week to speak about a phased in approach to reopening the economy. I can’t imagine the numbers when it comes to what is lost in the province.

Finance Minister Donna Harpauer said on March 18 during the budget that never was announced, the province had $1.3 billion to deal with any economic woes due to the pandemic. How far can that possibly go when no one is working and little is coming in?

Thinking like a government leader, you can understand they want to jump at the first sign of life getting back to normal, especially when everyone is continuing to fall behind the eight ball.

Patience and destitution are two things that do not go hand in hand. We all want things to get back to where they were, but at what cost?

While Moe has been open with the fact the reopening of Saskatchewan will be slow to avoid the chance of a second surge, it is tough to say if the province will get a taste of the economy reopening and get the idea of speeding up the process.

While on a surface level it is probably pretty safe to say the Sask. Party will come out on top yet again in the next election, a lot rides on how Moe and company continue to handle this pandemic.

Going into an election with the speaking point of taking us out of a pandemic with minimal deaths and impact to the economy would only strengthen the Sask. Party’s grip on the legislative seats going forward.

Moe did say events like the Grey Cup may be in jeopardy. He said he could not see into the future but the process of lifting gathering restrictions would not be that quick to get back to the number that is a sellout at Mosaic Stadium.

Moe also added the restrictions would remain in place around travel and also restrictions implemented in long-term care facilities to protect seniors, who make up all four of the deaths in Saskatchewan related to COVID-19.

Thankfully, it seems the chief medical health officer has a great grasp on how to move forward. Moe has said many times reopening or further restrictions is dependent on the recommendations of Dr. Saqib Shahab.

In the words of Confucius, “When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.” 

Hopefully, continuing to believe the province really does have the best intentions for all Saskatchewan residents really does pay off and we don’t have to talk about the government that jumped the gun.

 

 

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