Increased restrictions are coming into effect Monday as the province attempts to try to curb the surge in new COVID-19 cases and more hospitalizations.

Mandatory masking will be expanded to all indoor public spaces in communities with a population of over 5000 people.

This will affect 59 communities and builds on the mask mandate implemented last week for Regina, Saskatoon and Prince Albert.

“The threat of COVID-19 is serious,” said Health Minister Paul Merriman. “We need to work now.”

All Saskatchewan restaurants, bars, taverns and nightclubs must stop serving liquor at 10PM and that patrons must stop drinking at 11 PM. Food can still be served.

Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab is recommending people look at their activities and slow things down. Go back to basics like in the spring by minimizing your contact outside your home.

“Over the past nine months, we have seen periods of extremely low transmission and periods of unacceptably high transmission here in Saskatchewan,” Shahab said.  “This has not been determined by the virus; it has been determined by the actions of individuals making conscious decisions to follow best public health practices.”

The Saskatchewan Medical Association wrote an OpEd suggesting stronger restrictions on bars and restaurants.

“We believe targeted closing of bars and nightclubs until the surge is blunted is the most effective strategy we have. The risks are too high and the consequences are too serious,” said Dr. Barb Konstantynowicz, President of the SMA.

Limiting church attendance and casino capacity is not included in this latest round of restrictions, but Shahab indicated that talks were ongoing to examine indoor sports.

The province is recommending that school divisions which have schools above 600 students move into level three in their school plans.

Nearly 1000 new COVID-19 cases since last Thursday. The province will announce 83 new infections today, which is down from the weekly daily average, however hospitalizations are at 53 including 15 in ICU.

This development means that the Sask. Health Authority is to re-establish its Emergency Operations Centre.

This could lead to mobilizing health professionals to hotspots and the creation of field hospitals.

The SHA is expecting an increase in hospitalizations in the coming weeks.

“Key to success is compliance,” Merriman said. “Individual responsibility is the greatest responsibility.”

Merriman said the health system is at a tipping point, as different health services may be affected to address the current COVID pressures.

Fitness facilities may continue to operate under current guidelines. But all aerobic group fitness activities such as spin classes, class circuit training, aquasize are limited to a maximum of eight participants.

“We have to reduce these trends now,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. He referenced that Sask. is recording its highest hospitalizations. The new public health measures are in place for 28-days.