'We're in a crisis': Sask. NDP calls out absence of premier, health minister

Saskatchewan's official opposition is calling on the provincial government to return to providing weekly COVID-19 briefings as the province continues to battle the worst of the pandemic.

NDP leader Ryan Meili called the lack of availability from the Saskatchewan’s premier and health minister an “unbelievable abdication of duty.”

CTV News reached out to Health Minister Paul Merriman with an interview request. According to a representative for Merriman, he may be available Wednesday.

“We are in the worst health crisis in the history of this province and [Merriman] has got nothing to say,” Meili said Tuesday.

“I was asked the other day if he should resign, it seems like he already has.”

CTV News also contacted Premier Scott Moe’s office on both Monday and Tuesday for a response. His office has not responded to our requests.

During a press conference, Meili said the province has a responsibility to release the latest COVID-19 modelling, so that the public knows where the province’s healthcare system stands and what can be expected in the coming weeks.

These calls from the opposition come as the province reported 311 individuals hospitalized with the virus, up 22 from Monday. Ten more Saskatchewan people reportedly died of the virus.

There are no ICU beds available in the Far North West, Far North Central, Far North East, North West, Central West or South East. The province said these regions have never had ICU capacity.

TRANSMISSION IN SCHOOLS

More than 500 cases have been reported in schools in the last two weeks - with 38 of those schools on the province’s active outbreak list.

The government previously said it is prioritizing keeping kids in the classroom, meaning this school year – students who are deemed close contacts don’t have to self-isolate.

The NDP called on the government to change those procedures, saying it is possible to strike a balance between students' health and learning.

“There’s a lot of room to look at for supports for parents to be able to isolate with their children. We’ve seen other provinces find a way to do this,” NDP education critic Carla Beck said.

While contact tracing continues to be a challenge for schools, the NDP says increasing access to rapid test kits would help limit transmission.

“We’re hearing from schools that they don’t have enough to perform rapid testing for their staff let alone the expectation that’s been put out into the community just go to your local school and get a rapid test,” Beck said.

The premier had previously said rapid test kits are readily available for all schools in the province.

A spokesperson for the Regina Public Schools said 13 more of its schools are expected to receive these kits – but it’s unclear when.

CTV News asked the education ministry how many rapid test kits have been deployed to divisions – and when all schools can expect to have them.

The ministry did not respond to the question, saying “more information on the self-test at home pilot will be announced in the coming days.”