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4 Feb, 2022 03:58

Canada province vows to end Covid restrictions ‘very soon’

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said it’s time to get ‘back to normal’
Canada province vows to end Covid restrictions ‘very soon’

Canada’s Saskatchewan province will soon lift all of its Covid-19 measures, the regional government said, arguing that residents are tired of intrusions into their lives and a perpetual state of panic triggered by the pandemic.

“Covid is not ending, but government restrictions on your rights and freedoms – those will be ending, and ending very soon,” Moe said in a video posted to Twitter on Wednesday night. “What’s necessary is your freedom. What’s necessary is getting your life back to normal, and it’s time.”

The public health order which created Saskatchewan's Covid rules is set to expire later this month, but currently requires masking at indoor public spaces, proof of vaccination or a negative test result for government employees, as well as mandatory self-isolation for anyone who screens positive for the virus.

In addition to dropping the remaining restrictions, beginning February 7, the province will limit access to PCR testing to “priority populations,” including healthcare workers, international travelers and residents currently showing symptoms, according to interim Health Authority chief Derek Miller. Walk-in and drive-through test sites previously open to the general public will also be shuttered at that time, and the government will stop providing weekly updates on new Covid cases, deaths, testing and vaccinations.

The premier went on to state that the measures would be halted not because “Covid has ended” – saying it is impossible to eliminate the virus for good – but rather because “people understand it better.”

“They understand what they need to do. They understand the risk and they are prepared to live with that risk, more than they are prepared to live with the ongoing government intrusion into their lives,” he continued, adding that a “perpetual state of crisis” has had a “harmful impact on everyone” over the last two years.

Though Saskatchewan has seen a spike in coronavirus infections in recent months, said to be fueled by the Omicron variant, deaths in the province remain well below previous stages of the pandemic. It has tallied just over 1,000 fatalities since the global outbreak kicked off in late 2019.

Other Canadian provinces have also hinted at dropping some of their restrictions, with the country’s most populous region of Ontario unveiling plans to gradually scale back its measures late last month. Alberta’s chief health officer, Deena Hinshaw, also recently argued that such restrictions cannot be used “in the long-term,” suggesting it, too, could look to drop them soon. 

Covid-19 measures and associated mandates have become a hot topic of debate across Canada as of late. Major protests over vaccination requirements for long-haul truck drivers have erupted in its capital city of Ottawa and at multiple locations near the border with the United States, creating a blockade of trucks that effectively shut down a border crossing in Alberta.