‘A very quiet Christmas’: Shahab discouraging inter-provincial travel, gatherings during holiday season

REGINA —
Saskatchewan’s Chief Medical Health Officer is urging people to be cautious and discouraging inter-provincial travel, as the province heads into the holiday season during a pandemic.

“My recommendation at this time is actually that we need to have a very quiet Christmas,” Dr. Saqib Shahab said.

The province’s top doctor is asking families to limit gatherings to their immediate household. Inter-provincial travel is also not recommended, unless essential.

“Many families are already making those plans not to travel inter-provincially unless absolutely essential,” Shahab said.

Shahab said it’s too early to say whether it will be safe for even one or two households to get together during the holidays.

“We need to be very cautious because if we relax over the holidays while our case numbers are high, we will pay the price in January.”

If large gatherings are held over the holidays, Shahab cautioned that Saskatchewan could see cases rise just like after Thanksgiving.

“Our numbers are much higher than we were at Thanksgiving,” Shahab said. “Thanksgiving, our numbers were lower. We cautiously had no more than 15 people allowed [at gatherings], but in some cases, people went to multiple events and we saw a bit of a rebound.”

On Tuesday, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe suggested COVID-19 gathering restrictions could be loosened before Christmas, if the province saw a change in its case trend. At this point Dr. Shahab said it’s hard to say whether any restrictions will be relaxed.

“We will have to monitor closely over the next two weeks,” Shahab said. “But whatever the plan is for holidays, we have to recognize that it’s very different from last year and it’s also different from Thanksgiving.”

Saskatchewan reported 238 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, along with two more deaths related to the virus. The seven-day average of daily new cases is 274, or 22.6 new cases per 100,000 population.

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