The largest surge since the pandemic begun is prompting Saskatchewan including Lloydminster to bring back mandatory masks ahead of a vaccine passport. The return to mandatory masking in indoor public places comes into effect Friday September 17.

Premier Scott Moe delivered the news on social media Thursday morning and followed up with another briefing in the afternoon along with Chief Medical Health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab.The two discussed protecting the health care system from being overwhelmed as case counts continue to rise.

As the province battles the fourth wave of the pandemic, Moe indicated that patience has run out and as the province moves forward, it’s time for the unvaccinated to get the shot.

“This wave of the pandemic is being driven almost entirely by one group that consists of about 20-30 per cent of our population; those that have made the choice to remain unvaccinated. New cases are in overwhelmingly unvaccinated people. Hospitalizations are overwhelmingly unvaccinated people. The choice to not get vaccinated is not just affecting you, it is now seriously impacting those who did do the right thing, and it is now seriously impacting those who cannot get vaccinated; our children.”

Moe indicated all Saskatchewan government employees will be required to provide proof of vaccination by October 1st or submit proof of a negative COVID test result on a consistent basis. The government is also encouraging other employers including school divisions to put in place a proof of vaccination or negative-test requirement for their staff.

Chief Medical Health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab in referencing the data called for a return to all of the previous protocols including sanitizing, physical distancing and staying home if you are ill. He called for a rethink on social gatherings as the province tries to get case counts lowered.

Shahab also dealt with COVID transmission and its impact on school kids.

“It is astounding to see that 98 per cent of children who test positive are in households who are unvaccinated. About 330 cases so far. So again it stresses that the best thing we can do to have a safe school year is to make sure that everyone in the household 12 and over is fully vaccinated starting today.”

Vaccine passport coming October 1st

From October 1, the province will require proof of vaccination or negative test to enter several establishments and event venues that bring people together including:

  • Indoor dining at restaurants;
  • Nightclubs, bars, taverns and other licensed establishments;
  • Event and entertainment venues, including conference centres, casinos, movie theatres, concert venues, live-music venues, museums, and indoor facilities hosting ticketed sporting events;
  • Indoor fitness centres, and gyms.

Proof of vaccination will not be required for:

  • Retail businesses, including grocery stores;
  • Places of worship;
  • Fast food restaurants offering takeout and delivery;
  • Health care services, professional services, or personal services;
  • Hotels or other lodging;
  • Facilities hosting non-ticketed amateur sporting events, including youth athletics and recreational leagues;
  • Business meetings and places of business closed to the general public, unless otherwise directed by the business or employer;
  • Private gatherings held at an indoor public residence.

Children under 12 will be exempt.

There is an exemption  for indoor youth athletics for those under the age of 18 while they are playing their sport. However masks will be required for entry and exit into the facility, for athletes and spectators. More information on this aspect is available online.

The province aims to launch its verifiable vaccination record sometime next week. Details and instruction materials will be forthcoming from the Ministry of Health.

The province also says anyone who does not get the shot will have to be routinely checked for COVID-19. This will include providing the documentation of proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR or rapid antigen test provided by a certified healthcare provider to businesses, services and employers who require them.

For residents who opt to provide a proof of negative COVID test, protocols for this are being developed.

The province is also working on increasing access to rapid-antigen tests for home-based self-administration screening. Details on this including locations will be announced in the near future.

The province aims to lift the mandatory mask order in late October ahead of implementing a full proof of vaccination or negative test requirement.