Pandemic restrictions eased for restaurants, bars, public pools in N.S.
No new COVID-19 cases reported in province on Friday
Increased gathering limits are among changes announced on Friday by Premier Stephen McNeil and Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health.
The province announced no new cases of COVID-19 on Friday. Nova Scotia hasn't had a new case since June 9, a stretch of 17 days.
"We have had no new cases of COVID and that is why we are able to begin to open our province even more," said McNeil.
As of July 3, outdoor events organized by groups like businesses and churches can now have 250 people in attendance. Indoor venues can have 50 per cent of their maximum capacity, up to a maximum of 200 people.
"If a venue's normal capacity is 200, it can only have 50 per cent of that (ie 100) to allow for physical distancing. If a venue's normal capacity is 500, it can only have the maximum of 200," said Department of Health and Wellness spokesperson Adèle Poirier, in an email.
This will allow concerts and church services to proceed and movie theatres to reopen. Restaurants and bars can now operate at 100 per cent capacity and serve patrons until midnight.
Gatherings not run by a business or organization, such as a family backyard barbecue, are still limited to 50 people.
"This is to protect you if you are hosting a family event in your community," said McNeil. "It shouldn't be on you as an individual to monitor people's behaviours, businesses and event planners get paid to do that. That is why they have a higher gathering limit."
Private campgrounds will also be able to run at 100 per cent capacity.
Public pools are being reopened, too.
But Strang said these gatherings can only occur as long as public health safety measures are followed.
That means people still have to obey physical distancing rules and wash their hands frequently.
"If you like being back to work, if you like having our society, communities open, you need to follow all these rules together because if we don't we run a very real risk of having to go backwards," said Strang.
It wasn't all good news.
McNeil said people will still not be able to visit family members in long-term care facilities. He said it is still too risky to open the facilities to the public. However people can have outdoor visits with their family members if they follow certain restrictions.
He also announced that the Yarmouth ferry that travels to the Bar Harbor, Maine will not run this year. McNeil said it wasn't wise to restart the ferry service with the rapid spread of the virus in the U.S.
Strang is also now recommending that all Nova Scotians wear non-medical masks when out in public when they think they might not be able to maintain appropriate physical distance. He said people should wear a mask at a grocery store, on a bus or in a mall.
Nova Scotians should be carrying a mask with them at all times just in case they need it, said Strang. He said wearing a mask protects the people around us.
"Wearing a mask is really a way of showing that we care about other people and we ask that they wear a mask so they can care about us," said Strang.
Following the public health rules will help to control the spread of the virus as the province continues to relax restrictions, he said.
This is the first provincial COVID-19 update in a few weeks for McNeil and Strang after Strang had a medical procedure.
There are currently no active cases of COVID-19 in the province.
The province says there are still two people in the hospital related to COVID-19, but their cases are considered resolved.
Two days ago, McNeil announced that Nova Scotia would be joining the other Atlantic provinces in forming a regional pandemic bubble starting July 3.