COVID-19: Complying with Saskatchewan’s Public Health Orders – What it Means for Individuals and Businesses

Emergency Declaration by the Government of Saskatchewan

On March 18, 2020, the government of Saskatchewan declared a state of emergency under section 17(1) of The Emergency Planning Act, giving the provincial government extensive powers to address the COVID-19 pandemic. In general, an emergency declaration expires at the end of 14 days from the time it was declared and may be renewed at any time prior to the expiration of the declaration.

Section 18 of the EPA authorizes the government of Saskatchewan to take all actions and measures that are reasonably necessary to meet the emergency, such as the power to control or prohibit travel to or from any area of Saskatchewan and to provide, maintain and co-ordinate emergency medical, welfare and other essential services in any part of Saskatchewan.

For the duration of the state of emergency, the government of Saskatchewan has ordered and directed all persons in Saskatchewan, including the City of Lloydminster, to comply with all orders issued by the Ministry of Health and the Chief Medical Health Officer under section 38 and subsection 45(2) of The Public Health Act, 1994.

Public Health Orders Issued under The Public Health Act, 1994

The Chief Medical Health Officer of Saskatchewan has issued a series of public health orders (“orders”) under section 38 and subsection 45(2) of The Public Health Act, 1994 to control the transmission of the 2019 novel coronavirus. To date, orders have been issued on March 17, 2020, March 19, 2020, March 20, 2020 and March 26, 2020. The succession of orders reflects the quickly changing approach taken by the government of Saskatchewan to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The most recent order was issued on March 26, 2020 and has supplemented, rescinded and/or replaced various restrictions imposed in previous orders. The following province-wide restrictions are currently in effect:

School Closures

Effective March 20, 2020, classes in all primary, secondary and post-secondary educations institutions, both public and private are suspended. The suspension is indefinite and will depend on decisions made by Saskatchewan’s Chief Medical Health Officer.

Mandatory Self-Isolation

Effective March 20, 2020, certain persons are required to go into mandatory self-isolation. The government of Saskatchewan has defined self-isolation to mean: “staying at home and avoiding situations where there is a potential to spread the infection to others: work; school; sporting events; social, cultural and religious gatherings; and public places such as restaurants and malls.” A person in mandatory self-isolation must avoid public transportation. If there is an emergency that requires persons in self-isolation to leave their home, they must wear a surgical mask while they are out.

Self-isolation is distinguished from self-monitoring, which simply means: “paying attention to your health and so you can identify signs of sickness.”

The following persons are required to go into mandatory isolation:

Persons diagnosed with COVID-19

All persons diagnosed with COVID-19 must follow advice of their healthcare provider and seek medical care if they are deteriorating or having difficulty breathing.

What is permitted:

  • Going outside on your own property, including your backyard or balcony, as long as you are not physically interacting or near other people

What is not permitted:

  • Leaving your property
  • Going for walks
  • Having contact with others in your home

Persons who have travelled internationally

All persons who have travelled internationally must go into mandatory self-isolation for 14 days from date of arrival back into Canada. If they develop any COVID-19 symptoms (fever, cough, shortness of breath), they must call 811 and follow medical advice.

What is permitted:

  • Going outside on your own property, including your backyard or balcony, provided you are not physically interacting or near other people;
  • Going for solitary walks if no symptoms develop and you can maintain a two-meter distance from other people at all times. Do not touch shared surfaces such as public access doors, handrails or elevators.

What is not permitted:

  • Going shopping or to areas where you can touch shared surfaces, such as public access doors, handrails or elevators;
  • If you develop COVID-19 symptoms, do not leave your private property or have contact with others in your home.

It should also be noted that mandatory self- isolation is not required for persons who have travelled within Canada. However, any person who has travelled on an airplane in the same row as a confirmed case, three (3) rows in front or three (3) rows behind, must self-isolate for 14 days and call HealthLine 811 if COVID-19 symptoms develop.

Exemptions for persons who have traveled internationally

Specific health-care workers, workers who provide emergency health-care services, workers who are essential to maintain essential services, workers who maintain supply chain, or rail, airline and transport crews are exempt from the requirement of going into mandatory self-isolation for 14 days after international travel if they are supervised by Infection, Prevention Control Officers or Occupational Health and Safety in the workplace.

Persons identified as a close contact with an infected person

All persons who have been identified by a Medical Health Officer as a close contact of a person or persons with COVID-19 shall go into mandatory self-isolation for 14 days from the date of last having been exposed to COVID-19.

All persons who have become symptomatic while on mandatory self-isolation must call HealthLine 811 and follow HealthLine’s directives. In addition, all persons who are household members of a person having laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 must immediately go into mandatory self-isolation, call HealthLine 811 and follow HealthLine’s directives.

Limits on the Size of Public and Private Gatherings

  • Effective March 26, 2020, the size of indoor and outdoor public and private gatherings are limited to a maximum of 10 people (excluding family members living in the same household). The exceptions to this limitation are where two meter distancing between people can be maintained in the following circumstances:
  • Settings where people are distributed into multiple rooms or buildings and workplaces; and
  • Are a critical public service or an allowable business service.
  • Where a critical public service or allowable business service is unable to maintain two-meter distancing, self-monitoring of personal health or supervision by either Infection Prevention and Control Officers or Occupational Health and Safety must be applied.

Visitor Restrictions to all Saskatchewan Health Authority Facilities

Visitors to long-term care homes, hospitals, personal care homes and groups homes are restricted to family members or designates visiting for compassionate reasons. All visitors must undergo additional health screening prior to entry.

Compassionate reasons include immediate family during end-of-life care, family of patients prior to a major surgery or visitors aiding in clinical care. However, only immediate family can visit.

An individual is considered to require compassionate care when he or she has a condition which has been diagnosed by a physician and primary care team as terminal, with life expectancy of weeks or months, which is usually considered to be no longer than three (3) months.

Expectant mothers can have one support person, such as a spouse or immediate family member to accompany them during their labour and postpartum period. The support person must not have travelled internationally within the past 14 days or have any symptoms of COVID-19.

Child-Care Services

All facilities that provide child-care services as defined in The Child Care Act, 2014, are limited to a maximum of eight children per building space.

Section 2 of The Childcare Act, 2014 defines “child-care services” to mean “services that have as their primary purpose the care and supervision of children.” Moreover, “facility” means: (a) a child-care centre; (b) a group family child-care home; or (c) a licensed family child-care home.

All child-care facilities co-located with or within a long term care or personal care home that meet the eight-child restriction must be segregated with a private entrance and separate space so that there are no shared common areas with the long-term care home or personal-care home. In addition, no interaction between childcare children and residents of the home is permitted. The child-care facility may continue to operate subject to any applicable restrictions placed on child-care facilities.

Critical public services to address COVID-19 and allowable business services

Effective March 26, 2020, all business that are not a critical public service or allowable business services must close. The government of Saskatchewan has released an exhaustive list of public services and business that are permitted to continue operating during the emergency declaration in order to maintain critical services to the public and industry to prevent supply chain disruption. This list includes services such as health-care and public health workers, law enforcement, public safety and first responders, production, processing and manufacturing and the supporting supply chains, transportation and logistics, government and community services, media and telecommunications, construction including maintenance and repair, select retail services, such as grocery stores, pharmacies, and convenience stores, and banking and financial services.

A full list of allowable business services is provided on the Government of Saskatchewan website.

It should be noted that retail service locations that are an allowable business service must not provide open prepared self-serve food products, such as salad, olive and soup bars.

Non-allowable business services

All business that are not a critical public service or allowable business service must close. This means that non-allowable business are prohibited from providing public-facing services. However, they are still permitted to provide online sales. Examples of non-allowable business services include, but are not limited to: clothing stores; shoe stores; flower shops; sporting good and adventure stores; vaping supply shops; boats, ATV, or snowmobile retailers; gift, book, or stationary stores; jewelry and accessory stores; toy stores; music, electronic and entertainment stores; pawn shops; and travel agencies.

Effective March 20, 2020, the Chief Medical Officer has ordered the closure of the following facilities:

  • All nightclubs, bars, lounges and similar facilities except in the following circumstances:
  • Take-out of alcohol or food products with two-meter distancing between customers; and
  • Delivery of alcohol or food products.

Effective March 23, 2020, the Chief Medical Officer has ordered the closure of the following facilities:

  • All restaurants, food courts, cafeterias, cafes, bistros, and similar facilities except in the following circumstances:
  • Take-out food with two (2) meter distancing between customers;
  • Drive through food services;
  • Delivery of food products; or
  • Soup kitchens, Not-for-profit community kitchens and religious kitchens with two (2) meter distancing between persons.
  • All recreational and entertainment facilities including fitness centers, casinos, bingo halls, arenas, curling rinks, swimming pools, galleries, theaters, museums and similar facilities.
  • All personal service facilities including the place of business of a tattooist, hairdresser or barber, acupuncturist, acupressurist, cosmetologist, electrologist, esthetician, manicurist, pedicurist, sun tanning parlour, facilities in which body piercing, bone grafting or scarification services are provided, facilities in which massage or massage therapy services are provided except where the services are urgently medically necessary, and any other personal service facilities similar to the foregoing enumerated personal services.
  • Dental optometrists, ophthalmologist, physical therapy, occupational therapy, podiatry, chiropractor clinics can only provide urgent services or procedures.

Consequences of failing to comply with a Public Health Order

Any person who contravenes the EPA, the regulations, or any order made pursuant to the EPA, or interferes with or obstructs any person in the exercise of a power or performing any duty imposed by the EPA is guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction  to a fine of up to $2,000 in the case of an individual and up to $10,000 in the case of a corporation.

Moreover, the penalties for failing to comply with orders made pursuant to The Public Health Act, 1994 are more extensive than the penalties for contravening the EPA. In particular, section 61 of The Public Health Act, 1994 provides that any individual that fails to comply with an order of a medical health officer or Minister is guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine of up to $75,000 and a further fine of up to $100 for each day the offence continues. In the case of second or subsequent offences, an individual may be liable to a fine of up to $100,000 and to a further fine of $200 for each day the offence continues. In addition, where a person fails to comply with an order and where a medical health officer believes on reasonable grounds that the person is endangering public health or safety because he or she is infected with, has been, or might have been exposed to a communicable disease, the medical health officer may detain that person for a period not exceeding the prescribed period of transmissibility of the disease. However, such detention is subject to judicial review, having regard to the danger to the lives, safety or health of the public.

In the case of a corporation, failing to comply with an order can result in a fine of $100,000 and a further fine of $1000 each day the offence continues for a first offence and to a fine of up to $250,000 and a further fine of $5,000 for each day the offence continues for second or subsequent offences.

Significantly, where a corporation is guilty of an offence under the Public Health Act, 1994, every officer, director, manager or agent of the corporation who directed, authorized, or participated in the commission of the offence is also guilty and liable on summary conviction for the offences set out in s. 61, regardless of whether the corporation itself has been prosecuted. Therefore, corporations must remain cognizant of the significant liability to which their directors, managers, or agents are exposed for failing to comply with any order made by the Chief Medical Health Officer.

MLT Aikins LLP encourages any business to contact us for any assistance with these matters. Our firm advises clients on how to navigate the legal and regulatory challenges facing them as they look ahead in these uncertain times.

Note: This article is of a general nature only and is not exhaustive of all possible legal rights or remedies. In addition, laws may change over time and should be interpreted only in the context of particular circumstances such that these materials are not intended to be relied upon or taken as legal advice or opinion. Readers should consult a legal professional for specific advice in any particular situation.

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