‘He’s human:’ Saskatchewan premier says minister’s poll comment not appropriate

Saskatchewan’s premier says it was not appropriate for one of his ministers to cite a public-opinion poll as a measure of success in fighting COVID-19.

Health Minister Paul Merriman pointed last week to an Angus Reid Institute survey that showed people were satisfied with the Saskatchewan Party government’s handling of the virus.

The research found that 55 per cent of 497 respondents polled in Saskatchewan in November thought the province was doing a “good job” handling COVID-19. It was 77 per cent in June.

Saskatchewan is dealing with more people in hospital and a rising death toll as the novel coronavirus spreads. Merriman’s comments on public opinion were met with criticism, including from the Opposition NDP.

“Likely not the most appropriate response,” Premier Scott Moe told The Canadian Press in a recent year-end interview.

“The health minister, myself — we get a lot of questions over the course of a week at any point in time in this pandemic, and if we don’t answer each and every one of them as perfectly as we should or would or could, I think people would be understanding of that.”

Moe said he hasn’t spoke to Merriman about the comment.

“He’s human,” the premier said.

Moe said he doesn’t know if there is a measure of success when it comes to tackling the virus. On Wednesday, the province had just over 4,200 active infections, with 124 people in hospital and 30 people in intensive care.

Dr. Saqib Shahab, chief medical health officer, said the province had been struggling to get below 250 new daily cases.

Saskatchewan still has the third-highest rate of active infections per capita in Canada —behind Manitoba and Alberta. As a result of its mounting cases, the province has banned most household visits, closed casinos, reduced capacity for hair salons and ordered retailers to limit shoppers starting Christmas Day.

He hopes people will view the pandemic’s effect on everyday life as having been temporary, and that things improved with a vaccine, he said.

“I don’t know that that’s a measure of success … the answer to that question. What are people going to recall when they talk about COVID in two years is something that I most certainly am thinking about today,” said Moe.

“How do you measure success (against) a virus that we are still sorting out, trying to learn?”

(Canadian Press)

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