Saskatchewan health minister addressed COVID-19 concerns in the province on Wednesday while cases continue to rise.
Paul Merriman told reporters while the government supports businesses and organizations that are mandating patrons be vaccinated, they are not changing their perspective on the issue at this time.
“I think you’re infringing on people’s personal rights if you’re mandating things,” Merriman said.
He added that it’s the individual’s responsibility to get vaccinated and with more than 500,000 vaccines available in Saskatchewan, “there is absolutely no reason that somebody can’t get vaccinated right now.”
“I don’t know why it has to be government mandate, the individual should make the choice whether they want to be vaccinated or not.
“If it is government-mandated, it just changes the factor of government telling you what to do versus you making the choice to go get it. If people don’t want to get vaccinated, that’s their choice.”
Merriman also addressed mandatory vaccines at large events, such as Saskatchewan Roughriders games. Currently, attendees are not required to be vaccinated.
Health officials are in “constant contact” with the team and giving them advice, Merriman explained.
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“If the Riders want to make a choice, that’s up to them. I know some other CFL teams have been able to do that or made their choice, and we hope that the Riders will make a choice in the near future,” Merriman told reporters.
“People need to go and get vaccinated, not just because of attending a venue, not just because of whether they want to travel internationally or whether they want to go to another province … they should do this for their own health and the health of their community.”
“We’re seeing all signs that we’re entering the fourth wave,” Merriman added.
As for restrictions being re-introduced, Merriman said it would take two to three weeks to see a full impact.
“By that time, people could be vaccinated.”
He said the government is not changing its direction since ending the state of emergency on July 11 and removing all restrictions.
Sask. NDP criticizes governments handling of COVID-19 over summer
Opposition Leader Ryan Meili accused Premier Scott Moe and Merriman of ‘taking the summer off’ in regards to addressing COVID-19 in Saskatchewan.
“They’ve completely abandoned any action on COVID-19 for nearly two months now,” Meili told reporters after Merriman’s press conference.
“We should have a health minister that’s giving us a clear vaccine mandate in key areas, people who are working in schools, people who are working in health-care facilities, people who are attending big events like Rider games and concerts.”
Meili also questioned when the government would decide to re-introduce mask mandates.
B.C. and Manitoba have decided to bring indoor mask mandates back in response to rising cases.
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Meili added the government should be looking at re-introducing mandatory indoor masking, especially in cities like Saskatoon and Regina where cases are on the rise.
As of Wednesday, Saskatoon had 455 active COVID-19 cases and Regina had 86.
Meili suggested the Saskatchewan Health Authority start reaching out to individuals who aren’t yet vaccinated to let them know where they can get a shot, and ask if they have any questions about the vaccine to curb vaccine hesitancy.
Meili said vaccine requirements in different professions are a “part of life.”
“I am a family doctor and to go to med school I had to have all kinds of vaccines.”
According to Health Canada, as of Aug. 14, 56.84 per cent of Saskatchewan’s population is fully vaccinated, the second-lowest percentage in the country.
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