Premier Scott Moe says Saskatchewan is not planning to install checkpoints at provincial borders, a move the NDP says the province should put in place to monitor who is coming and going.
Alberta has reported 659 new cases of COVID-19 over the last three days, while Saskatchewan has reported 24 over the same period.
“We have had cases that have come in from other provinces. Outside of two instances at present we have been able to control the spread of this virus,” Moe said Thursday.
The two instances Moe referred to are a COVID-19 outbreak in La Loche and a cluster of cases connected to the Lloydminster Hospital.
There are 58 cases overall in Saskatchewan’s far north, including 39 cases in La Loche.
Some COVID-19 cases in La Loche have been linked to an oilsands operation in Alberta near Fort McMurray.
On Thursday, Moe announced further restrictions regarding northern travel.
The public health order restricts all non-critical travel in and out of the Northern Saskatchewan Administrative District (NSAD), which covers nearly half of the province but has a low population relative to the rest of Saskatchewan.
Checkpoints have been set-up in some communities in the NSAD.
Checkpoints now common in Canada
Eight provinces and territories have set up checkpoints at busy border crossings. Manitoba has checkpoints along its border with Saskatchewan.
Nova Scotia has implemented checkpoints at every major entry point into the province, with anyone entering stopped and questioned.
New Brunswick has enabled peace officers to turn away anyone travelling unnecessarily.
“We are confident in the measures we have in place,” Moe said.
On Wednesday, Moe said the government may limit travel in northwest Saskatchewan at the border with Alberta to prevent the possible spread of COVID-19.
“This is no time to be travelling inter-provincially unless it is for absolutely essential need. Dr. Shahab has a recommendation against travelling inter-provincially. We have not elevated that to a mandatory self-isolation at this point in time,” Moe said Wednesday.
Moe said there was no plan to force travellers who have come from another province to self-isolate. There is an exception: on April 20, the Saskatchewan Health Authority said all residents of the province travelling in and out of northern Alberta should self-isolate for 14 days.
“As such, regional medical health officers are advising against all non-essential travel between northwest Saskatchewan and northern Alberta effective immediately and until further notice,” the SHA said in a statement to the Canadian Press on April 20.
NDP calls for checkpoints along Saskatchewan-Alberta border
On Thursday, Opposition Leader Ryan Meili said the government should set up checkpoints at the Alberta border but stopped short of calling for a ban on non-essential travel into and out of that province.
“I think some guidance needs to be sent to our neighbours and friends in Alberta. We love that you come here to camp. We love that you come here to fish and hunt. We want you to keep doing that, but not right now,” Meili said.
“It’s still too open. We can look at the model introduced for the north. That should be applied as well for the for travel between here and Alberta.”
Meili said he would like to see the checkpoints used to track what communities people are travelling back and forth from.
“Ask people why they’re traveling,” he said. “If they’re traveling for reasons that are avoidable, encourage them to make other plans and keep track of what that traffic is.”
Moe hopes allowed outdoor activities won’t attract travellers
Saskatchewan’s reopen plan begins on Monday and includes the opening of fishing and boat launches in May, golfing on May 15 and camping on June 1.
When asked if he was concerned about out-of-province people coming to Saskatchewan to take part in outdoor activities, Moe said the government restricted camping to daytime and has restrictions on other activities.
“With the overnight camping not being available here in Saskatchewan. It is our hope that that would restrict some of that travel activity. It’s also our hope that people would adhere to the recommendation by Dr. Shahab and not travel inter-provincially for recreation purposes,” Moe said.