Nova Scotia

New household gathering limits announced for all of N.S. during Christmas period

Nova Scotia will put in place new limits on household gatherings across the province over the Christmas period, announcing restrictions Wednesday similar to those already in place in the Halifax region and parts of Hants County.

Several restrictions extended in Halifax region, parts of Hants County, although some to be loosened next week

Premier Stephen McNeil, left, and Dr. Robert Strang, the province's chief medical officer of health, announced the changes to restrictions at a press briefing on Wednesday. (Communications Nova Scotia)

Nova Scotia will put in place new limits on household gatherings across the province over the Christmas period, announcing restrictions Wednesday similar to those already in place in the Halifax region and parts of Hants County.

Starting Monday, only 10 people will be allowed to gather together in a home, a number that includes all household members.

Dr. Robert Strang, the province's chief medical officer, said multiple cases are being identified every day, and not just in the Halifax region.

"And while our numbers are lower, the virus is still here, which means it has the potential to spread through social activities that go together with this time of year."

The province also said several of the restrictions in the Halifax region and Elmsdale, Enfield and Mount Uniacke, Hants County, announced on Nov. 24 will continue, although some related to long-term care homes will be loosened next week, and gyms, libraries and museums will be allowed to reopen on Monday.

Until Monday, households in the region will still only be allowed to welcome five visitors at a time. Retailers must continue to limit capacity, and restaurants and casinos remain closed until at least Jan. 10.

"If we're not careful, if we allow ourselves to get relaxed and start gathering again and allow the social activities, we will almost certainly have another spike in January," said Strang.

New restrictions across the province, starting Monday:

  • Gatherings in homes limited to 10 people, including household members.
  • All retailers must start limiting the number of staff and customers in their stores to 25 per cent of their legal capacity, based on their building code.
  • Restaurants must stop service by 10 p.m. and close by 11 p.m. nightly.
  • Sports, arts and culture events can allow for 25 people without physical distancing for practices, training and rehearsals only. Games, competitions and tournaments won't be permitted.
  • Social events, festivals, and wedding and funeral receptions will no longer be allowed. However, faith gatherings, and wedding or funeral ceremonies can be held. They are limited to 50 per cent capacity, with a maximum of 100 people indoors and 150 outside with physical distancing.

Restrictions to be lifted in Halifax region on Monday:

  • Last month, Nova Scotia recommended people avoid travel in an out of the Halifax region and parts of Hants County. People are no longer being advised to avoid these areas, but Strang said all Nova Scotians should avoid unnecessary travel this holiday season. 
  • Long-term care homes will start allowing family visitors and two designated caregivers. However, residents will not be allowed home visits outside the facility.
  • Fitness and recreational facilities will be able to reopen in the Halifax region. Across the province, these facilities must operate at 50 per cent capacity, but masks must be worn while not exercising and three metres of distance must be maintained when performing high-intensity activities.
  • Libraries and museums in the Halifax region can also reopen.

4 new cases

Four cases of COVID-19 were reported in Nova Scotia Wednesday. The number of active cases in the province continues to drop, with 55 remaining.

All of the new cases are in the central health zone. Three are close contacts of previously reported cases, while one case is under investigation, according to a Department of Health news release.

Potential COVID-19 exposure

Nova Scotia Health announced a potential COVID-19 exposure location at Andre's Pizza at 243 S. Foord St. in Stellarton. Anyone who visited that location on Dec. 10 from 2:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Dec. 11 from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. is asked to monitor for symptoms up to, and including, Dec. 25. 

No one is in hospital with the coronavirus.

Strang said there are active cases in all zones of the province, but most are related to travel outside Atlantic Canada or are connected to previously reported cases.

Nova Scotia Health Authority labs completed 2,232 tests on Tuesday.

First vaccines administered

The first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine were given out on Wednesday to health-care workers. By the end of the day, 390 workers are expected to be vaccinated.

Danielle Sheaves, a registered nurse in the designated COVID unit at the Halifax Infirmary, was the first person to get the vaccine in the province. She said she will "definitely feel safer" going into work now.

Libraries in the Halifax region will be able to reopen next week. (Vernon Ramesar/CBC)

The occasion marked a "historic day in Nova Scotia," said Gary O'Toole, the senior director of population and public health with the Nova Scotia Health Authority.

"It's what we envisioned as the light at the end of the tunnel, we're very pleased to be at this point," he said.

Strang said Nova Scotia will receive another shipment of 1,950 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Monday. 

He said the province will continue getting that number of doses, or more, each week until March.

Cases in the Atlantic provinces

The latest numbers from the Atlantic provinces are:

  • Newfoundland and Labrador reported five new cases Wednesday. The province has 23 active cases.
  • New Brunswick reported eight new cases Wednesday and has 51 active cases. Three people are hospitalized with two in intensive care. 
  • P.E.I. reported no new cases Tuesday. The province had 16 active cases.