REGINA — Dentist offices, hairdressers, golf courses and retail stores could be allowed to reopen starting in May under Saskatchewan’s plan to refire parts of its economy during the COVID-19 crisis.
The five-phase plan presented Thursday includes timelines for when businesses and services shuttered to protect against the spread of the novel coronavirus might be allowed to open their doors.
Premier Scott Moe has said the number of COVID-19 cases will be monitored throughout each phase and the government will only move ahead if the infection rate stays low. In a televised speech Wednesday night, he said health officials are looking to increase testing and contact tracing.
Watch: Saskatchewan plans to reopen economy in May
So far, Saskatchewan has reported 326 cases of COVID-19 and four deaths.
Some other provinces are thinking about reopening some parts of their economies as spread of the virus becomes manageable, but Saskatchewan says it’s the first to release a detailed plan with dates and a timeline.
“Some may be concerned that this is far too soon, that reopening businesses in the coming weeks could increase the spread of COVID-19,” Moe told a news conference.
“We have to find the middle ground that continues to keep our case numbers low and keep Saskatchewan people safe, while at the same time allowing for businesses to reopen and Saskatchewan people to get back to work.”
Restrictions are to lift first for medical services such as dentists, optometrists and physical therapy on May 4. That also applies to fishing and boat launches.
Golf courses could be allowed to reopen on May 15, followed on May 19 by retail shops that sell clothing, flowers, books, sporting goods and toys.
The government says hairdressers, barbers, massage therapists, and acupuncturists could also begin seeing clients again on that day, but employees working directly with customers would have to wear masks.
The plan says businesses would be expected to maintain strict cleanliness standards as well as physical distancing. Operators would be asked to screen clients and wear masks and gloves if those measures were not possible.
Next, officials would consider lifting restrictions on indoor and outdoor recreational and entertainment facilities and bumping up the size of allowable gatherings to 30 people from the current 10.
The final phase of the plan includes lifting restrictions on crowd sizes, visits to long-term care facilities and non-essential travel. Moe has already said those will stay put for some time.
No timeline for gyms
The government’s plan doesn’t provide a timeline for when gyms might be allowed to operate or when daycare capacity might be increased.
Nor does it give a time frame for food services and restaurants to reopen, but when they do, they will be expected to operate at half their capacity.
Moe said he doesn’t see an issue with provinces lifting restrictions at different times and would be speaking to premiers on their weekly call. He said he had already shared the reopening plan with the federal government and some of the provinces.
The premier also said he doesn’t think it would be unexpected to see a small increase in cases. Saskatchewan’s chief medical health officer said transmission of the coronavirus will continue.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 23, 2020