Nova Scotia

Some N.S. restrictions loosened as COVID-19 cases remain low

Some public health restrictions will be loosened in Nova Scotia Monday as the province continues to have low COVID-19 case numbers. For example, retail businesses and fitness facilities can operate at 75 per cent capacity, up from 50 per cent.

No new cases found on Friday; number of active cases drops to 8

Premier Stephen McNeil, left, and Dr. Robert Strang during a COVID-19 briefing last month. (Communications Nova Scotia)

As of Monday, some public health restrictions will be loosened as Nova Scotia continues to experience low COVID-19 case numbers.

The province reported no new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, bringing the number of active cases in the province to eight.

During a news conference Friday, Premier Stephen McNeil said he was pleased with the province's efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

"I'm so proud of this province and all of you," he said. "Thank you. Thank you for your co-operation."

Friday's news conference is McNeil's last one as premier, as he is being replaced by a new Liberal leader at the party's convention this weekend.

As of 12 a.m. AT Monday, retail businesses and fitness facilities can operate at 75 per cent capacity, up from 50 per cent. In the case of fitness facilities, a three-metre distance must be maintained during high-intensity activities, both indoors and outdoors.

Recognized businesses and organizations can resume hosting events — including social events, arts and culture events, sport and recreation events, festivals, faith gatherings, weddings and funerals — with 150 people outdoors or 50 per cent of a venue's capacity, up to a maximum of 100, indoors. These events must stop any food or alcohol service by 10 p.m. and end by 11 p.m. 

Spectators will once again be allowed at events, including sports games and practices, and arts and culture rehearsals and performances, except when they're held at schools.

The new gathering limits also apply to meetings and training hosted by private businesses or organizations, provincial and municipal government, first responder organizations, mental health and addictions support groups and organized clubs.

As well, large facilities that have already approved plans can resume hosting events with multiple groups of 100 that are kept separate with their own entrances, exits and washrooms. Centre 200 in Sydney and Halifax's Scotiabank Centre can have multiple groups of 150.

Loosened restrictions 'a test,' says premier

McNeil said the new changes will be in effect until March 7, but they could change depending on case numbers.

"This is a test for all of us. We're keeping our cases down, but the moment that we see a shift or a surge, a change in the number of cases, we will not hesitate to bring back restrictions," he said. "It really is up to all of that."

The general gathering limit for household and informal gatherings and events not hosted by a recognized business remains 10.

Nova Scotia Health's labs completed 1,681 tests on Thursday, according to a news release from the province. There were also 686 rapid tests administered between Jan. 29 and Feb. 4 at pop-up sites in Antigonish, Halifax and Truro.

Two people are in hospital with COVID-19, including one in intensive care.

The province's state of emergency has been renewed and will be in effect until at least Feb. 21.

University students asked to stay in N.S. for reading week

During Friday's news conference, Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health, urged post-secondary students to stay in the province for reading week, which is coming up this month.

"That might be difficult for you to stay put this year within the province, but in doing so you will be doing your part in keeping our overall numbers low and keeping your friends, your fellow students and our community safe," he said.

If a student goes somewhere that isn't P.E.I. or Newfoundland and Labrador, they would have to self-isolate for 14 days upon return. If that happens, Strang said they should be tested on the sixth, seventh and eighth day of their self-isolation, similar to what happened after the Christmas break.

$5M in funding for female-led venture capital fund

On Friday, McNeil said the province is contributing $5 million to Sandpiper Ventures, the first all-female capital venture fund in Canada.

He said the money will help women pursuing their goals in business and investing, noting that women in the workforce were disproportionately affected by the pandemic.

"We need women to be active members of our economy, we need women to drive our economy, and we need women in business and in the tech sector and we need women entrepreneurs," he said.

However, when asked by a reporter about why this money isn't being directed toward child care, which is one of the main obstacles preventing women from returning to the workforce as much as men, McNeil said the province has been "applauded" for the way they've handled child care in the province.

"Through this pandemic, we were the only government in this country to keep child care whole. We treated our child-care workers with the respect they deserve, we made sure those spaces were there, we'll continue to do so," he said. "But the reality is, we need to create economic opportunity ... whether we like it or not, capital is not available the same way to our daughters as it is to our sons."

Atlantic Canada case numbers

  • New Brunswick reported seven new cases on Friday and 35 new recoveries, making for 228 active cases. A suspected fourth case of the U.K. variant has also been detected. There have been 18 deaths since the pandemic began. Six people are in hospital, three in intensive care.
  • Newfoundland and Labrador reported one case on Friday. The province has 14 known active cases.
  • P.E.I. reported one new case on Friday, but the new case is someone who resides in another Canadian jurisdiction and doesn't count toward the province's case numbers. The province has three known active cases.

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Alex Cooke

Reporter/editor

Alex is a reporter living in Halifax. Send her story ideas at alex.cooke@cbc.ca.

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