SASKATOON -- With more stringent COVID-19 guidelines taking effect Thursday, a group of Saskatchewan doctors wants the province to do more than what has already been announced.

“I think we certainly can do more and we need to do it right away,” said Dr. Hassan Masri, an ICU physician and associate professor at the University of Saskatchewan.

Masri is one of the 400 Saskatchewan physicians who wrote an open letter to Premier Scott Moe, Health Minister Paul Merriman and Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab last week calling for more leadership to be taken by the government to help curb the spread of COVID-19.

Some of their suggestions were to implement mandatory masks province-wide and to temporarily shut down bars, nightclubs and bingo halls.

A mandatory mask policy and reduced gathering sizes will come into effect Thursday, but Masri said concerns about social gathering places still need to be addressed.

“We feel that with all the outbreaks and the difficulty to manage bars and nightclubs and theatres and bingo halls, we believe that those four examples of these venues should be closed until we have a control on our numbers and until we really have a way to safely reopen them.”

He also said the province needs to put more emphasis on limiting bubbles in addition to physical distancing and wearing masks.

At the COVID-19 press conference on Tuesday, Moe directly addressed the open letter, saying “we have been listening to the not only the 2,700 physicians in the province, but also, you know, the nurses and all of our public health care staff that are offering very valuable service here today.“

Masri said while it’s important to have restrictions in place, they are only effective if people follow and respect them.

The Broadway Theatre is limiting its capacity to 30 people even though it is legally allowed to have up to 110 people in the building at a time under the current restrictions.

“We just felt like in the interest of community and public safety, how can we in good conscience remain a place that’s opening up and saying we can have up to 110 people walk in here for an event together? It just seemed like the wrong thing at the wrong time,” executive director Kirby Wirchenko said.

Wirchenko expects the theatre to lose thousands of dollars during that time but said it’s a necessary precaution.

“Everyone needs to do this short term pain so that we can have long term gain,” he said.

Masri agreed, adding “I think that personal responsibility in a free society like the one we live in is really the bottom line.”

Masri said the goal is to work with government officials to prevent another lockdown and to keep hospitals functioning, save lives and keep schools and businesses open.