Nova Scotia's proposed 5-step plan to lift restrictions could take years to complete
The first phase of the plan slated to begin three weeks from now
The Nova Scotia government has started quietly sharing its plan to lift the COVID-19 restrictions enacted in March, but it's not yet ready to tell the public about it.
On Wednesday, Nova Scotia's Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Robert Strang, briefed members of the Nova Scotia Business Labour Economic Coalition about the plan. The coalition is made up of more than 150 businesses, associations, not-for-profits and labour organizations across the province.
But when CBC News requested that same information, it received a statement from Premier Stephen McNeil's office instead.
"We are working with our business community and our health community to get their input to chart a path that will open up our economy while protecting Nova Scotians," the statement read.
"As always, when the consultations are complete, we will share all of the details with you."
What the plan says
CBC was able to obtain a copy of the PowerPoint presentation outlining the plan from another source. According to that document, the province is looking to lift the current restrictions in five phases.
The plan kicked off last Friday with a "soft launch," when the premier and Strang announced Nova Scotians could once again use parks and other green spaces and some businesses like golf driving ranges could reopen.
According to the presentation, which is labelled "Confidential - do not distribute," the first official phase of the plan could begin roughly three weeks from now. That phase could include allowing:
- Non-essential businesses to open.
- Daycare and schools to operate.
- Additional outdoor activities to resume.
- Non-urgent health-care services to resume.
- Small essential cultural gatherings (e.g. funerals).
- Permissible gatherings to increase from five to 10 people.
There is a note of caution in the presentation, which says "all of these proposed five elements would be proposed only if specific conditions can be met that would lower the risk of transmission."
Each phase followed by a 28-day trial
Phase one would then be followed by a 28-day trial period, culminating in a "risk assessment" to ensure the lifting of restrictions had not resulted in further spread of the virus.
Subsequent phases are labelled "tentative and subject to change," and follow the same pattern of trial periods and assessments.
Phase two would allow larger gatherings and allow more businesses defined as "low risk" to operate.
Phase three would increase "gathering size again – and now 'moderate risk' businesses/workplaces."
Phase four includes the "highest risk settings and another increase in gathering sizes."
The final phase is dependent on the creation and distribution of a vaccine. That's when the province estimates "all business [will] reopen." Some experts say it could take 12-18 months before a vaccine is ready for the general public, while others have projected longer timelines until everyone has access to a vaccine.
The government also highlighted in the presentation that measures may be tightened once again "if reopening results in significant flare-ups of activity."
It's time to reopen, says Chamber of Commerce
Patrick Sullivan, CEO of the Halifax Chamber of Commerce, attended the briefing with Strang. Sullivan would not talk about the specifics of the presentation but said it was helpful in giving people a sense of the way ahead.
He also said businesses were eager to restart operations.
"They need to reopen now," he said. "It's time."
"We want to respect to their health guidelines, but it's obviously time for business to start to think about what they need to do to embrace safety guidelines."