Nova Scotia introduces new restrictions as 10 new cases reported
Essential travel only in and out of HRM; restaurants and bars to stop serving and close hour earlier
Nova Scotians are facing a host of new restrictions as the province tries to stem an increase in COVID-19 cases.
Nova Scotia is reporting 10 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, the highest number the province has seen since Jan. 6, when 12 new cases were reported. The province now has 35 active cases.
Nine of the new cases are in the central zone, with five being close contacts of previously reported cases and one being related to travel outside Atlantic Canada. Three are under investigation.
One case is in the eastern zone. The people involved in all the new cases are self-isolating.
Avoid non-essential travel
Premier Iain Rankin and Dr. Robert Strang, the chief medical officer of health, asked Nova Scotians to avoid non-essential travel within the province and elsewhere, especially to and from restricted areas of the Halifax Regional Municipality, Hants County and Lunenburg County.
"We have to activate what we're calling a circuit breaker in HRM," Strang said. "We had hoped we would not be back in this situation, but a return to these type of restrictions are necessary.
"I fully appreciate how disruptive they are to families, to individuals, to businesses, however, COVID-19 is a social virus, so we need to focus our restrictions to limit social activities."
Beginning at 8 a.m. on Saturday, the following restrictions apply to the Halifax Regional Municipality, up to and including Porters Lake, as well as Enfield, Elmsdale, Mount Uniacke and Hubbards:
- Residents in long-term care homes may only have visits from designated caregivers or volunteers, and can only leave for medical appointments or for a drive.
- Restaurants and bars must stop serving food and drink by 9 p.m. and must close by 10 p.m.
- Sports games and events, as well as arts and culture events and festivals will no longer be permitted, but sports practices and arts and culture rehearsals can continue with a limit of 25 people participating.
- Faith gatherings can have 150 people outdoors, or 50 per cent capacity to a maximum of 100 people indoors.
- Weddings and funerals are permitted to have 10 people but no receptions are permitted.
- Business and organized club meetings and training may have 25 people with physical distancing, except where emergency responders need to be closer for training.
- There can be no more than 25 people involved in a virtual performance, including performers and people managing the live stream.
The restrictions will be in place until at least Friday, March 26.
Other restrictions that are currently in place will remain so across the province, including restricting gatherings in homes to 10 and reduced retail, mall and fitness facility capacities.
Effective Monday, the province also announced new testing requirements for domestic rotational workers and specialized workers, as well as for parents and children whose child custody arrangements see them travelling outside of Nova Scotia or P.E.I.
"I wish I had better news today, but unfortunately our case numbers continue to climb," Rankin said. "Dr. Strang warned us of this earlier in the week. Now we have to face our new reality. COVID is making a comeback in parts of our province."
The province's health authority completed 2,797 tests across the province on Thursday.
Strang urged everyone who has even one mild symptom of a cold to get tested for COVID-19, noting that there are very low numbers of other cold viruses circulating.
He said he is concerned not only about the increase in cases, but also about the longer list of contacts people are reporting, and about the fact that cases are popping up in different areas of the HRM with no "common thread" between them.
"What the strong likelihood of that means is there's a low-level circulation of the virus that's been happening for the last couple of weeks, and we're just starting to see it now."
Strang said if numbers continue to climb over the next week, the province will look at implementing further restrictions or expanding restrictions to other parts of the province.
Case at Irving Shipbuilding
Irving temporarily suspended operations Friday at its shipyard on the Halifax waterfront after one case of COVID-19 was confirmed the day before.
The company is investigating potential spread at the facility and all close contacts will be tested.
In a news release, Irving said it plans to test employees Saturday from 10 a.m. AT to 6 p.m., and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Irving said the focus this weekend will be on priority roles, production and production support.
The company said 1,600 people work at the Halifax Shipyard each day.
The province has administered 32,019 doses of COVID-19 vaccines as of Friday, and of those, 12,105 people have received their second dose.
Strang said he is awaiting guidance on how Health Canada's approval of the AstraZeneca vaccine will impact Nova Scotia's vaccination program, but said only a small percentage of our vaccine is likely to come from the company.
Atlantic Canada case numbers
- New Brunswick reported one new case Friday, for a total of 41 known active cases. The province has one person in hospital related to COVID-19, and that person is in intensive care.
- Newfoundland and Labrador reported 4 new cases on Friday. The province also reported 52 new recoveries, leaving the number of known active cases at 287.
- P.E.I. reported a "cluster" of three new cases on Thursday, all under investigation by public health, making for six known active cases on the Island.