Saskatchewan Health Minister Paul Merriman said there are signs the province is entering the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the provincial government is not ready to enforce vaccinations.
Doing so would violate people’s “personal rights,” Merriman said at a news conference at the Legislative Assembly on Wednesday, after pressure from the opposition to impose vaccines among some groups, including health care workers.
“I don’t know why it should be a government mandate,” Merriman said. “If the government is mandated, that changes the factor of the government in telling you what to do versus deciding to go get it. If people don’t want to get vaccinated, that’s their choice.”
Merriman said that a small percentage of people “just won’t be vaccinated” and that incentives used in other counties have not been shown to improve vaccination numbers. Instead, the county recently hosted vaccine clinics at the Saskatchewan Roughrider Games and Festivals.
“I think everyone should go and get vaccinated. I mean, that’s really the end of the story for me, do people need to be vaccinated.”
Those who refuse, he said, do not make an informed decision.
“I think there’s been a lot of misinformation that’s been circulating about vaccines for a very long time,” Merriman said.
Saskatchewan has the second-lowest single-dose vaccination rate of all provinces at 64.25 percent, and the lowest proportion of people fully vaccinated against COVID-19 at 56.84 percent, according to Health Canada.
Merriman’s appearance came after eight consecutive days in which more than 100 new cases of coronavirus were announced in the county. Just moments before its appearance, the county announced 216 new cases of the disease, bringing the county’s daily new infection rate for seven days to 172.
If the government is mandated, it changes the factor of telling the government what to do in return for deciding to get it. If people don’t want to be vaccinated, that’s their choice.Saskatchewan Health Minister Paul Merriman on coronavirus mandates
The press conference also came a day after Ryan Milley, the leader of the opposition National Democratic Party, called on Merriman and Prime Minister Scott Moe to “come out of their hiding places”. Millie Merriman and Moi have been accused of largely keeping out of public view as the number of COVID-19 cases has surged in recent weeks.
While the Saskatchewan Health Authority has recently held some briefings — including one on Tuesday to address a COVID-19 lab error that resulted in 206 false positives — the Saskatchewan government has not held a COVID-19 press conference since July 7, which ended. With the Ministry of Education and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Saqib Chehab shaking hands.
“The Prime Minister shook hands with Dr. Shehab and told the province, ‘You are on your own,'” Milley said. We no longer appear.”
Merriman said there are currently no discussions about returning regular COVID-19 briefings.
Millie resumed his attacks after Merriman’s press conference, saying that Merriman “completely lacks understanding” of his job.
Milley said the government should require health care workers, teachers and those who work with people at risk to be vaccinated. He said the same should apply to people who attend big events such as Riders Games and concerts.
He also called on the province to release figures showing how many children under 12 years old with COVID-19 are in hospital.
19 patients are in the intensive care unit
Merriman said the government is paying close attention to hospital numbers for COVID-19. He said there are currently 19 people with COVID-19 in intensive care.
Merriman said that while the county is seeing a rise in COVID-19 transmission among people age 19 or younger, they are affected in a milder way and “do not end up in the hospital.”
The minister acknowledged recent pressures on health workers, some of whom are taking “due leave”.
Merriman also addressed the COVID-19 lab bug announced Tuesday, saying it was particularly unfortunate that it affected residents of the Extendicare Parkside nursing home in Regina, which saw a COVID-19 outbreak last winter that killed 39 people.
“It’s so painful to get a lab result wrong about anything,” Merriman said.
The doctor urges to hide enclosed spaces
The county said it currently has no plans to implement county-level restrictions or vaccination mandates.
On Tuesday, in a letter to the province’s First Nations, a medical health officer for Aboriginal Services Canada in Saskatchewan warned that the delta variant is spreading through gatherings such as sporting events, family reunions and summer camps.
Besides encouraging everyone 12 years of age or older to get fully vaccinated against COVID-19, Dr. Ibrahim Khan also called on everyone to wear masks indoors or where physical distancing is not possible.
“The more these public health measures are followed, the less likely our health staff will be overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases,” Kahn wrote.