SASKATOON -- A Saskatoon physician says the provincial government’s move to keep bars and casinos open sends mixed messages about the severity of the pandemic.

Dr. Hassan Masri says it’s confusing for people to hear the province urge them to keep their social circle small, but then allow places of socialization to remain open.

"On one hand, they’re saying, 'Stay home and minimize your bubble.' But on the other hand, they’re saying, ‘Blackjack is fine. Sit around a table and double up.’ I think that really sends a mixed message," Masri says. 

“It takes away the seriousness of the message, that this pandemic is serious.” 

To avoid overwhelming the health care system, and to keep schools and small businesses open, Masri believes bars, nightclubs and casinos should be closed. 

On Wednesday, the province announced new COVID-19 restrictions as the number of active cases in Saskatchewan topped 3,000.

Under the new rules, capacity must be reduced to 30 people at all facilities currently supporting a capacity of 150 people. It includes larger venues such as bingo halls, casinos and movie theatres. 

“The new restrictions are certainly a step in the right direction, but they don’t go far enough,” Masri says. 

Masri says he isn’t advocating for a lockdown, but says based on other jurisdictions’ experiences — it could be inevitable. 

“Catch-up restrictions will never be enough because COVID-19 is always seven or 14 days ahead of us,” he says.

“We really got to be very swift and aggressive with our interventions so we’re ahead of it … if we don’t do that very quickly, we may see ourselves unfortunately in a full lockdown.”