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Sask. mandates wearing masks indoors in Regina, Saskatoon, Prince Albert

Province suggests one person per household runs errands and limits those outings to one day per week
Shutterstock/Drazen Zigic

Masks will be mandatory in indoor public places in Saskatchewan's three biggest cities later this week as the province faces what its top doctor is calling its first true test of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The rule is to come into effect Friday in Saskatoon, Regina and Prince Albert and is to last at least 28 days, after which chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab will review how well it worked.

While the rule is only mandatory in the three urban centres, Shahab said Tuesday that everyone in the province should have a mask on hand when they go out, even if it's popping into a shop or gas station for five minutes.

"It's a simple gesture that says 'I'm protecting you,' because a lot of businesses, they have been wearing a mask to protect you," he said.

"It's a reciprocal gesture and I think it's the least we can do now that our COVID transmission risk is higher."

The province announced 81 new cases in its latest COVID-19 update. There were 28 people in hospital, including seven in intensive care.

Shahab had previously signalled that additional measures may be needed if new infections were to average between 60 to 100 a day for a sustained period.

The average over the past week has been 76.

Premier Scott Moe said Tuesday that masks are one important layer of protection.

"However, we should be under no illusion that a mandatory mask policy will solve everything," he said.

"Much of the recent spread of the virus in Saskatchewan has occurred in private settings, in homes, where we are comfortable and maybe let our guard down.''

The Saskatchewan government said it would consider enforcement options based on how well people comply with the order, but Moe said he doesn't want to have to resort to that.

"We're not going to have a bunch of COVID cops that are out travelling across the province enforcing mask use in our public spaces," he said.

"This is about compliance and this is about the onus being on us as individuals to do the right thing and wear a mask in our public spaces in these three centres. The onus is not on the business owner or the operator of the facility to enforce."

The province said transmission in small, rural communities has been mostly linked to private gatherings. In the cities there has been a mix of exposure at both private gatherings and in public spaces.

Everyone in Saskatchewan is being urged to have only one member of a household run errands and limit those outings to once a week. The province is also continuing to encourage people to work from home.

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