SASKATOON -- Saskatchewan Union of Nurses president Tracy Zambory joined CTV News at Five anchor Jeremy Dodge to explain why she thinks the province's new COVID-19 rules don't go far enough and how a novel approach taken in Australia could help stop the spread of coronavirus in Saskatchewan. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

So last week, you spoke to us here at CTV News about some of your concerns. And they proved not to be unfounded with, you know, over 400 cases of COVID-19 being confirmed on the weekend. Of course, the impact on the healthcare system has been felt by nurses and everybody on the front lines. Now, the government has taken some action, with new restrictions, what are your thoughts on where we stand?

Well, as registered nurses, we were very disappointed with the announcement of the restrictions. We feel that they haven't gone near and far enough. I mean, I live in a community of less than 1000 people in Saskatchewan, a little place called Stoughton. It's where our long term care facility is. You know the small towns and villages across Saskatchewan are where the majority of our long term care facilities are. And we're saying that it's okay not to mask (in these communities). You know, as registered nurses, we were disappointed. You know, my members are scared, they're tired, they're frustrated, and they need to see some action from Premier Moe and from Dr. Shahab, that's going to actually make an impact on COVID-19.

So can you speak a little bit about some of the impacts that you have seen on our health care facilities and the workers?

Well, what we're seeing now is workers that are becoming exhausted, they're tired, they're scared. When we started this conversation quite some time ago, months ago, with our members, it was an unknown. So they felt really scared about how it was going to affect them, how it was gonna affect their families. Now we're in the thick of it and they're feeling that even more. They're very frightened about their own health and safety and taking (COVID-19) out to the community.

We're seeing our large hospitals in Regina and Saskatoon are full too, overflowing our intensive care units, our emergency rooms, and that causes then a ripple effect out to other communities. Because now Saskatoon is on bypass. (meaning) very ill people end up having to go out to communities elsewhere and that puts pressure on those communities who are also looking after very ill people. So it's a very damaging ripple effect that we have happening here. 

We are in a very hard situation right now and it requires strong leadership. So we're calling on Premier Moe to make mandatory masking province-wide. Everybody needs to be wearing a mask, the minute that you leave your home. It doesn't matter where you live. Everybody needs to be masking.

(Also) we need to take that brave step on doing what we call a circuit break, where we have, you know, two to three weeks where things are shut down. So we can do some catching up in our health-care system. And we don't feel so stressed and we're able to get on top of things.

There have been calls for the federal government to step in and maybe do something because this is not this is not just a Saskatchewan issue. This is countrywide. What are your thoughts on that?

We couldn't agree more. This is a national wide disaster we have ourselves in, and we need to stop the tension that's always created between Saskatchewan and Ottawa. It's of no value. We're all in this together across this country and we need to rely on each other to be able to get ourselves through as communities. So I think this is where we really need to take a real hard look, maybe step back and do some self reflection. Because I want to say that registered nurses are imploring the public to please wear a mask when you go out, wash your hands, social distance, only go out when absolutely necessary. And if we actually come together as a community and do all these things, it's going to start having such a positive effect on the burden that we have going on in our health-care system.

We know that wearing a mask has all of the scientific proof and all of the research there to support it's our number one tool in our toolbox to fight against COVID. The other thing that we know is that it will not affect the economy. In fact, it'll have the opposite effect. It'll help us to try to stay open and help us keep going. That's, that's what we all want to do.

This is about coming together and community. I want to direct people to go have a look at Melbourne, Australia, Melbourne, Australia and the government there made the very tough decision to do a complete lockdown, to make masking mandatory to do all of those really hard things that off the start were not popular. And they had their, I believe they called it like a circle of steel, where if people were not complying, they were dealt with swiftly and off the start people were upset. But when we go and look at Melbourne today, Melbourne today is up and as vibrant as it was pre-COVID. They still have COVID cases, but because they did that really hard, tight lockdown, they were able to get a handle on contact tracing. on the testing of COVID patients, those numbers came down. So the health care system was able to get itself back on its feet. Now they don't have to have any masking. There's no mandatory anything, the economy is running and vibrant. If they find themselves in an issue where there's a hotspot, they do those little circuit breaks where they go into that area and they shut it down. They don't see the community spread happening. So when we take the strong measures, and we all work together, we're going to be able to get on top of COVID-19.

Okay, Tracy, thank you very much. Thank you to all your members, of course as we try and get a handle on this. Hopefully we can speak in the not too distant future and have a much better mood about things and some much better news to report. 

We can reminisce about what was and how much better we're doing today.