Sask. experience shows COVID-19 restrictions work, expert says

A public health expert says Saskatchewan's own experience shows how public health restrictions can halt the spread of COVID-19.

"It's well known that if you can restrict exposure of your population to a particular disease like COVID, you'll see fewer cases," said Michael Szafron, associate professor in the School of Public Health at the University of Saskatchewan.

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe claimed this week that Quebec's COVID-19 measures have failed to reduce COVID-19 rates in Quebec, and so his government will not introduce more restrictions.

"Saskatchewan's rate of COVID-19 related deaths in January is the lowest of any province and 90 per cent below the national rate of 4.8 per 100,000 population. It is worth noting that Quebec, with the most severe lockdown measures in Canada, has the highest COVID-19 fatality rate in Canada in January and one of the highest current rates in the world," he said in a news release.

He also said his government "sees no clear evidence that lockdown measures have reduced hospitalizations, ICU admissions and deaths in other provinces."

However, Szafron said that while a causal relationship can't be drawn between the Omicron restrictions Quebec introduced on New Year's Eve and the decline in cases seen a few days later, they are definitely related.

Without being able to control all variables it's difficult to get conclusive evidence - but in Saskatchewan, there has been a high correlation between public health measures and decreases in case counts, he said.

"If it happened, once, you know, then maybe it was random, right? If it happened after two times, well, it could be random. Three times, the chance of it being random and not connected, much less. Four times, getting an even lower degree of probability. And, of course, we haven't hit our peak yet in Saskatchewan. And this time, no new measures have been put in place."

Instead, Saskatchewan will rely on the efficacy of vaccinations, people being good citizens, and current masking and proof of vaccination orders to bring the case count down, he said.

"We're going to allow COVID to spread with very little impedance."