COVID-19 and gathering limits; a tale as old as time

Regina residents standing with masks. Photo illustration by Yegi Zargar.

Many Saskatchewan residents are concerned that despite the high numbers of COVID-19 cases, the province has not yet implemented strict gathering limits in 2022, despite Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab’s warnings.

“I think in theory gathering limits would work and at the beginning of the pandemic they did,” Brandon Burkitt who lives and works in Watrous said in an interview.

Gagan Karra, a Regina resident, believes since many people are fully vaccinated, the province’s COVID-19 cases will drop down with temporary gathering limits. “They don’t even have to put very extreme restrictions like they had last year,” said Karra.

Shahab has been constantly asking residents to stay away from gatherings but has mentioned that any policy decisions are up to the government. “This is not the time for any gatherings at all. You should do what is essential, which means going to work and going to school,” said Shahab in early January in a news conference.

The chief medical health office didn’t respond to interview requests for more details.

Burkitt believes on one hand limitations might help with the spread of COVID-19, but on the other hand, “The majority of the population are vaccinated and aren’t going to follow gathering limits anymore.”

Many residents believe it was the right choice not to have gathering limits during Christmas and New Year but suggest the province’s current high cases requires gathering limits.

“I think it was important for everyone to celebrate holiday season with their family and friends but now the government should implement some sort of gathering restriction province-wide,” said Karra.

Radjah Sangalang, a third year University of Regina nursing student, says she has been following government data closely in the new year.

“Masking and social distancing in public places are not enough to prevent the spread of COVID-19 specially with the new Omicron variant and the province should have indoor limitations set in place,” said Sangalang.

Premier Scott Moe and Shahab have consistently said they are watching and comparing Saskatchewan Omicron cases with other provinces. However, Sangalang said every other province has some form of public or private gathering limitation in place, which makes this comparison difficult.

Moe has also previously mentioned in a news conference that the province will be watching the active COVID-19 cases and the ICU admissions to be able to decide on whether new guidelines are necessary.

The Chart below demonstrates the total cases and the active COVID-19 cases as well as the number of ICU hospitalizations in different regions of Saskatchewan.

The premier, who tested positive for the virus earlier in January, has said Omicron is “much more contagious,” but appears to be “milder” than other COVID-19 strains. The flu-like symptoms of the new variant seem to have made some people less concerned at this point.

Moe said Monday he hardly had any COVID symptoms but recognizes this won’t be the case for everyone.

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