Sask. doc welcomes new COVID-19 rules but says they come as ICUs already pushed 'to the brink'

A Regina physician who has been outspoken on social media during the pandemic calls Saskatchewan's just-announced public health measures a "substantive move" but says they should have come sooner.

"I can't in any way fault the government for anything that they said today, I mean we've been calling for all this for the last number of weeks," Dr. Alexander Wong said.

Fueled by the Delta variant, COVID-19 cases have been climbing for weeks in Saskatchewan, with over 4,000 active cases reported on Thursday.

"I mean obviously we kind of all wish on the healthcare side that it could have been all done sooner and that we could have been more proactive in terms of addressing these issues rather than waiting for our ICU capacity to be pushed, literally to the brink," Wong told CTV News following the province's announcement.

On Thursday, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe laid out his government's plans for the coming weeks including an immediate mask mandate and proof of vaccination requirements for people looking to participate in non-essential activities such as dining out at restaurants or attending events.

The proof of vaccination framework is expected to come into effect Oct. 1.

Wong said it will be weeks before the measures will begin to make a dent in the surge in active cases already battering the province's health-care system.

"I'm not saying in any way shape or form that it was deliberate, that anybody wanted things to go wrong, but in the end, I mean, you know, nowhere else in Canada, are we. Nowhere else in Canada are they dealing with this," Wong said.

The infectious disease specialist points to neighbouring Manitoba's decision to introduce a "vaccine passport" system as an example of successful — and earlier — government intervention.

"Why does, you know, Manitoba consistently have an eight to 10 to 12% higher vaccine uptake than we do. It's because they put a certificate program in place," Wong said.

"You know, so the fact that we basically chose deliberately not to put those policy measures in place until basically, we're at the brink, like Alberta, that's a failure of policy in my mind."

With so much data available from other jurisdictions, Wong believes different decisions could have been made.

"To say that we couldn't see all this coming and to say that we couldn't have predicted what was going to happen — I mean everything that happened was very much in plain sight based on what was going to - what was happening in the United States."

Wong said he would have liked to hear "some acknowledgement" that better decisions could have been made.

"The reversal is a tacit admission of that but at the same time to actually hear an apology and to actually hear again a degree of accountability as opposed to, you know, basically saying that this is all the fault of persons who have chosen not to be vaccinated still kind of rubs me a bit the wrong way,' Wong said.

"But in the end, you know, the measures are what matters."