Regina is now under a COVID-19 lockdown, not unlike the one the entire province was experiencing exactly a year ago.
It is something Premier Scott Moe vowed he would never do — a commitment he made just days before the October vote when daily cases in the province were in the single digits and there had only been a total of 25 deaths.
But rather that condemn the move —unpopular with those in running businesses or within his political base, regardless where in the province where they live — Moe should be credited for making the tough decision.
Unfortunately, new variants swamping
Hammering Regina made this a decision he had to make.
In fact, the day Moe announced the strict new lockdown-like measures for Regina, the capital city was accounting for 763 of the 891 new variants cases in the province.
That day, Regina was also accounting for 91 of the 150 new cases in the province 755 of 1,422 the province’s active case.
“The concentration of the variants in Regina is quite high and that is why we are coming forward with a number of tools at our disposal,” Moe said at a press conference.
“We have a higher concentration of variants anywhere else in Canada.”
It was a grim and uncomfortable admission for Moe to make — especially given the hope that mass vaccinations would allow Saskatchewan to get through the waning days of this pandemic.
Unfortunately, the reality for Regina is a growing fear of running out of ICU beds of the new variants’ fast-pace spread.
Some of Moe’s tough new measures are things the province hasn’t seen in a year — the closing of indoor dinking at restaurants and bars except for takeout orders, restrictions households to their immediate residents only with no visitors and limiting outdoor gatherings to no more than 10 people.
Theatres, bowling alleys, arcades, museums and libraries that had been re-opened in Regina were ordered closed.
And religious services in Regina were capped at 30 people until April 6, meaning that traditional Easter services would again be severely limited.
Moe even went one step further in at least one area — recommending that Reginans only travel for essential reasons. The stay-at-home recommendation was even extended to the neighouring communities including, Pense, Belle Plaine, Grande Coulee, Regina Beach, Lumsden, Craven, Edenwold, White City, Balgonie, Kroneau, Davin, Gray, Riceton and Lajord.
Essentially, Regina is now experiencing the lockdown Moe vowed would never happen.
Given that Moe has shown he’s not exactly inclined to give in to the wishes of the NDP Opposition or some public health critics who were clamouring for such a measure, this very likely was a last resort.
The Premier said he was following the advice of the province’s Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab.
So the question for many worried people elsewhere in the province is a simple one: Who after Regina might be next to face a lockdown?
Well, the good news — at least hopeful — is that it may be no one.
Let is be clear that Moe’s unpopular measures may need to applied elsewhere. At this point, we really don’t know.
Those tracking variants now see numbers in south central and southeast Saskatchewan that were similar to Regina’s numbers a week or two ago. This only heightens the fear that new variants could spread from Regina to not only these areas but virtually every area in the province.
But here is the good news: While both the spread within the city has been dramatic, we are still only talking about a Regina outbreak.
There are those who argue Moe could have and should have acted faster, but
by acting now, it might be possible that the outbreak will be confined to Regina.
That surely is the hope.