Melfort, Regina – There is an increasing level of radicalization within Saskatchewan with regards to perception of the COVID-19 pandemic, with some people calling the pandemic a farce and not a big deal. Some are going so far as to accost people in stores for wearing masks, calling them “sheep” or “sheeple.” There have been anti-mask protests in Estevan, Regina and Saskatoon. The question of radicalization against the pandemic response and the wearing of masks was posed to both NDP Leader, Leader of the Opposition Ryan Meili, and Saskatchewan Party Leader, Premier Scott Moe on Sept. 22.
Even the comments on the Facebook live feed during the regular COVID-19 press conference when this question was asked reflected this radicalization. One person commented, “Lift the state of emergency! Eliminate mandatory masks in our schools! Free choice! Scamdemic.”
Another said, “Why are we accosted for not wearing a mask? This is a bioweapon transferred across the world. By the very people giving mandates and misinformation. Fund your own tyrannical satanist agenda, leave the rest of us God loving humans alone.”
Meili was on the campaign trail. Speaking by phone from Melfort, he said, “It's really wrong, what's happening. And it's very frustrating to see the premier, and even Facebook, the folks who are doing this, whether it's online or see the protests in Saskatoon every week, the anti-maskers, are sending a terrible message. And the premier is not willing to say that they should stop. And he really should. Every time he leaves them credit, he creates a space for more people to feel that they can act the same way, and he creates confusion and mixed messages. And it's going to get people killed, because we are seeing numbers ticking up in Saskatchewan, more every day. And as we get into the flu season in the fall, it's going to get much worse. This is what every expert is telling us.
“We need a premier that’s going to urge people to follow the guidelines and do what’s safe instead of trying to save a few votes from folks who are really doing damage to the province,” Meili concluded.
Moe responded to the question at the regular COVID-19 briefing in the Legislature. He said, “We should not stigmatize one another in our society for any reason, whether that be wearing a mask or what have you.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is not a farce. This is a virus that is spread across the world. It's one that we’ve had a very methodical approach, right from the beginning that we were going to make every effort to ensure that our healthcare system was not overburdened in this province. And we have done that successfully.
“We've done that successfully whilst we have also been able to safely reopen our economy and virtually all segments of our community, including, just recently, our schools.
“The reason we are able to do that is because people in this province continue to adhere to the public health advice that was being provided by Dr. (Saqib) Shahab, through his consultation with his colleagues across the country.
“We have worked very hard to ensure that we are taking every precaution, and funded every precaution, that we possibly can to ensure that we are able to not only reopen our economy here in the province, but to keep our health system up and running as functional as it can. I'm very proud to say that we have worked very hard to Saskatchewan Health Authority and all of the individuals within it to work, very hard to re-establish as much capacity as possible in non surgical initiatives, but our diagnostics, that are being performed as well, and we're close to, not quite at, on the surgery side, but close to our surgical capacity pre-COVID. So, this has not come about easy because the standards and the protocols in our hospitals are very different today than they were even a short six or six or eight months ago.
Moe continued, “But the fact of the matter is, life does need to go on it needs to go on from an economic perspective. It needs to go on in our, in our communities, it needs to continue. We need to continue to provide the health services that people in this province expect of us, in addition to dealing with any COVID outbreaks or anything of that nature.
“This is much simpler to do when we have infection rates like we have had over the course of the last six months. There are other areas in North America that have much higher infection rates, and it makes for a much more challenging situation of continuing to operate their economy, much more challenging situation for them to continue to operate their health care services.
“And so, I would just ask all the people across the province to understand that COVID is real. It is a real threat to not only our economy, but it's a threat to our family members, in particular. We have seen what COVID does move into places like with vulnerable populations like our long term care homes. It is ultimately a disaster, with the fatality results that we've seen that in places such as Ontario and Quebec. Very fortunate, that we have not had that impact, here in Saskatchewan.
Moe concluded, “So, it is real. We have managed it, I think, as a population as people of this province, very, very well. That's why we were able to shut down less of our economy. Eight-seven per cent of the people continued to work throughout the COVID response in Saskatchewan. And that's why we were able to reopen our economy quicker than any other jurisdiction across this nation. And I would put forward that is why that I feel that Saskatchewan is in the best position to recover economically and actually get back to growing our economy here in the province.”
Moe noted Saskatchewan is well-suited to supply “what the world needs as the world begins to recover from COVID-19.”