Politics - Moe's status quo restrictions are a gamble

For the remainder of the month, Saskatchewan will remain under the restrictions that don’t permit you to have visitors to your house or allow you to go out to a restaurant or a bar with more than a couple other people.

The critical question is whether we would have to be under other circumstances.

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This is in no way to be take as an endorsement of the nonsense from the anti-mask crowd peddling their idiocy that the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t real or that their personal freedoms are somehow more important that any societal commitment they have not the spread the virus.

The novel coronavirus is all too real, becoming both increasing common and increasingly deadly in this province.

As of the writing of this column, we have seen 18,770 COVID-19 cases in Saskatchewan including 3,420 cases and 49 deaths already before the halfway point of this month. Last year, we didn’t see as many cases as we’ve so far seen in January until Nov. 4 and we didn’t see that many deaths until Nov. 12.

Such numbers underscore that not only our fight with COVID-19 is real and getting harder but is also a fight we may be losing.

So this takes us back to the question: Why did the government not to do more?

At the press conference last week in which Premier Scott Moe and Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab decided to extend current restrictions until Jan. 29.

Moe justified by the decision by explaining that Saskatchewan was having success in December before what he describes as a “Christmas bump” and went so far as to suggest the January numbers haven’t been all that bad or much worse than elsewhere.

At least on the latter points, Moe is incorrect.

As of the writing of this, we are experiencing the highest daily averages, highest hospitalizations and ICU admittance and highest death totals. By all unbiased statistical measures, January 2021 has been the worse.

It’s also now worse than just about anywhere else. We certainly have surpassed Quebec and Ontario in daily per capita cases. And, as it stands now, we are going in the wrong direction, This isn’t what is happening elsewhere.

Manitoba was facing dangerous numbers of 300 to 400 new cases a day — even after Progressive Conservative Premier Brian Pallister issued a severe clamp down that ticketed those attending church services, limited what big box stores could sell to avoid pre-Christmas shopping traffic and stopped people from travelling from one area of the province to another.

The outcry was loud from many sectors of that province and the positive results in Manitoba were not necessarily immediately. The novel coronavirus was rampant in Manitoba nursing homes, which is why deaths in that province have far out-paced deaths here.

But as it stands right now, Manitoba is seeing its daily case numbers below 100 and its death toll fall. Sadly, the expect opposite is happening here in Saskatchewan.

For that reason alone, it seems passing strange that Moe would call for more of the same for the next two weeks.

Perhaps the Premier and his health officials will be right that the high numbers of today are just the hangover after Christmas and New Years.

They are certainly right that any such lockdown is hard on business. One surely does sympathize both with struggle businesses are going through and tough choices Moe must make.

But what if doing the same thing isn’t doing enough? If we are experiencing large-scale COVID-19 community spread right now, is it logical to think doing more of the same will actually work?

What if, by the end of this month, we find out that all that’s been accomplished is postponing a necessary clamp down?

Moe and the rest of us are taking chance.

Murray Mandryk has been covering provincial politics since 1983.

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