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Think: roadmap to recovery – Saskatchewan’s re-open plan is worthy of consideration

Rick Dunlop

The question on many businesses’ mind is when and what exactly does an end to the COVID-19 lockdown look like. The Economist describes various European government’s easing of COVID-19 restrictions as being done “gradually, cautiously, and with only a hazy idea of what works.” https://www.economist.com/international/2020/04/16/governments-are-starting-to-ease-restrictions.

The three questions governments have to tackle is:

  • When to lift the restrictions?
  • How to lift the restrictions?
  • What restrictions should be lifted first?

Reasonable people (and experts) can and do disagree. The Economist notes that Norway concluded that “closing primary schools and nurseries were among the costliest policies.” When Denmark opened its nurseries and primary schools on April 15 (with older children scheduled to return a month later) 40,000 Danes joined a Facebook Group called “My Kid is not going to be a Guinea Pig for COVID-19.”

In Canada, it appears that Saskatchewan is the first province to wade into the controversial waters in a substantive and public way by releasing Re-Open Saskatchewan: A plan to re-open the provincial economy.  Other provinces are likely to adopt a similar approach, but as is evident by WorkSafe New Brunswick’s continual temperature checking requirement, provinces will inevitably adopt different measures:

  1. Re-opening with a dimmer not a light switch.

The Saskatchewan Plan is “built on a methodical and phased-in approach to slowly and responsibly lift restrictions on business and services.”

  1. What do the phases look like?

Phase one – Medical services, golf courses (yes, golf courses), parks and campgrounds.

Phase two – Retail and select personal services (e.g. hairdresser, barber, massage therapist)

Phase three – Restaurants and food services (at 50% capacity), gyms and fitness centres, licensed establishments and child care facilities, remaining personal care services and increasing the size of public and private gatherings to 15 people.

Phase four – Indoor and outdoor recreation and entertainment facilities and increasing the size of public and private gatherings to 30 people.

Phase five – Consideration of lifting long-term restrictions.

  1. Workplace guidelines

The Saskatchewan Plan contains numerous workplace guidelines including:

  • Employers should have plans in place for increased worker absences due to illness or isolation.
  • Employers should have a workplace illness policy that includes the following provisions:
    • Sick employees must stay at home or be sent home.
    • Sick employees must use the Saskatchewan Government’s self-assessment tool for COVID-19.
    • If an employee goes home sick, their work area must be cleaned and disinfected.
  • Employers must take steps to identify hazards and take measures to control exposure:
  • Walk through of the workplace to identify specific conditions or tasks that increase exposure.
  • Consult with employees and occupational health and safety committee.
  • Determine whether the tasks that require Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) can be performed later.

In contrast, WorkSafe NB released COVID-19: Health and safety measures for workplaces, which among other things, requires temperature checks at the start of each shift and must be repeated not more than every five hours thereafter.

  • Controlling the number of people at the workplace:
    • Do all your workers need to come to work?
    • Can some continue to work from home? (If the schools are not open, many workers will have to continue to work from home?)
    • Can you stagger “shifts” (or working hours)?
    • Is there adequate cleaning between “shifts”?
    • What is the core work? Can the core work be done safely and productively?
  1. Practical Tips

The Saskatchewan Plan also provides some practical tips:

  • The difference between cleaning and disinfecting. Disinfecting destroys germs; cleaning just removes dirt.
  • How to safely make a disinfecting solution.
  • Cloth mask guidelines.

Re-open Saskatchewan is a plan that is worthy of consideration given it will likely inform other provinces’ approaches.


This article is provided for general information only. If you have any questions about the above, please contact a member of our Labour and Employment group.

Click here to subscribe to Stewart McKelvey Thought Leadership articles and updates.

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