N.S. limits travel in and out of province to essential trips only
Those travelling from P.E.I, N.L., are exempt from new restrictions
Nova Scotia is placing new restrictions on who can travel to the province, announcing that come Thursday at 8 a.m. AT, people will not be allowed to enter unless their trip is deemed essential or they are permanent residents of the province.
Premier Iain Rankin made the announcement during a press briefing early Tuesday afternoon. Only those travelling from P.E.I. or Newfoundland and Labrador, where COVID-19 case counts are low, are exempt from the new rules.
Nova Scotia residents are also being told not to leave the province unless it is necessary.
"In light of the rise in cases related to travel in the province, we have decided to restrict non-essential travel into Nova Scotia," Rankin said. "This means all Nova Scotians, unless their travel is essential, should not leave the province. It also means that those people who live outside Nova Scotia should not travel to our province unless that travel is essential."
The limitations come as Dr. Robert Strang, the chief medical officer of health, said there are early signs of COVID-19 community spread, including in Lower Sackville, Halifax, Dartmouth and Lawrencetown. Strang urged anyone in those communities to get tested regardless of whether they have symptoms.
The following types of travel from outside Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island or Newfoundland and Labrador are considered essential:
- People who live in Nova Scotia but their primary employment is in another province.
- Federally approved temporary foreign workers.
- People who need to participate in-person in a legal proceeding in another province.
- Post-secondary students coming to study in Nova Scotia.
- Post-secondary students returning to their primary or family residence in Nova Scotia and parents who accompany them.
- Parents picking up a student in Nova Scotia to take them home as quickly as possible.
- People who can demonstrate that they already have a new permanent address in Nova Scotia as of April 21 and are moving here permanently.
- People traveling for child custody reasons following the child custody protocol.
- People who are exempt from self-isolation following the exempt traveler protocol.
- People traveling between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick for work, school or children in child care, following protocol for travel between these provinces.
The new travel restrictions will be in place for four weeks, but may be extended past May 20 if necessary.
Strang said Nova Scotia will be making fewer exemptions for compassionate reasons and will not allow people to enter from outside Atlantic Canada for funerals — and "only in exceptional circumstances" for end-of-life visits.
There has been a 400 per cent increase recently in people travelling across the land border, Strang said, though he did not have specific numbers.
Once the restrictions are in place, people attempting to cross the border — including air travel — will be required to fill in a digital check-in form and receive approval.
Strang said the new restrictions also apply to anyone who is purchasing a home in the province. If the home is purchased before April 21, the buyers can come to the province to move in. But if they purchase it after April 21, they must wait until travel restrictions change.
"We need to stop the flow of people coming into the province for non-essential reasons, including moving here," Strang said. "Now is not the time."
The province said details are still being worked out on who must isolate after essential travel.
9 new cases, plus 3 more in schools
Nova Scotia reported nine new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, bringing the total active caseload to 68.
But later in the day, it announced that two additional cases had been identified in connection with schools, including Dartmouth South Academy elementary and Auburn Drive High, both in Dartmouth.
Those two schools will remain closed until April 26 for cleaning. The two cases were identified after the cut-off for the day, so they will be included in Wednesday's COVID-19 numbers.
Late Tuesday evening, Public Health announced a case Mount Edward Elementary in Dartmouth. It will also be closed until April 26 for cleaning.
Public Health will get in touch with anyone who was in close contact with the affected people, and they will be asked to get tested and to self-isolate for 14 days. However, Public Health recommends that all students and staff at the schools get tested.
Over the weekend, the province announced the closure of two elementary schools in the Halifax area because of COVID-19 cases.
Six of the new cases reported Tuesday are in the central zone. Of those, five are close contacts of previously announced cases and one is under investigation.
Two new cases are in the western zone, one is in the eastern zone. The three are related to travel outside Atlantic Canada.
Two previously reported cases have been confirmed as being the variant first found in the U.K. They were related to travel.
There are two people in hospital related to COVID-19, and neither are in the intensive care unit.
Laboratories completed 2,723 tests on Monday.
Cluster of cases
Nova Scotians must not socialize with family and friends who are supposed to be quarantining, Strang said, as a current cluster of cases was prompted by a gathering with people who had recently arrived from Ontario.
He said while residents can support people in quarantine with food and essentials, they should not have close contact with them.
"Doing so, as we can clearly see, puts us all at risk," he said.
Along with an increase in travel-related cases, Strang said there are several small clusters in the Halifax-area where Public Health has not yet been able to determine the source of infection, indicating early signs of community spread.
Those clusters are in four areas within the Halifax Regional Municipality: Halifax, Dartmouth, Sackville and Lawrencetown.
Strang said Public Health is monitoring those areas closely and doing broad testing.
"We will take early and stronger action if necessary," he said, adding anyone who lives in any of these communities should get tested regardless of symptoms.
The Public Health Mobile Units are available for drop-in COVID-19 tests at Bethel Church, 5406 Rome Street, Halifax TODAY until 5 p.m.<br><br>Learn more about <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/COVID19?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#COVID19</a> testing options: <a href="https://t.co/8iGhUo6gBM">https://t.co/8iGhUo6gBM</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/HalifaxNoise?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#HalifaxNoise</a> <a href="https://t.co/7KlM6zHFnp">pic.twitter.com/7KlM6zHFnp</a>—@HealthNS
Rapid testing is available at the Sackville Sports Stadium in Lower Sackville on Wednesday, from noon to 7:30 p.m., and assessment centres in the central zone have increased their capacity.
Strang said Public Health is also working to get its mobile testing unit set up at the Bethel Church in Halifax's north end for the next few days.
Also as of Monday, 216,018 doses of vaccine have been administered in Nova Scotia. Nearly 19 per cent of Nova Scotia's population has been given at least one dose of vaccine, with 3.4 per cent being fully vaccinated.
Rankin said he spoke with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ontario Premier Doug Ford on the weekend about what resources Nova Scotia may be able to share with Ontario, but he said Nova Scotia will not reallocate its vaccines. The province is, however, considering whether it can fulfil Ford's request for trained doctors and nurses to help in intensive care units in that province.
This week and next week's shipments of vaccines are lower than they've been since mid-March, Rankin said, which means there will be fewer appointments available and it may take longer to get through the current age cohort. But the premier said so far, the supply issues won't affect the goal of giving all residents their first dose by the end of June.
Atlantic Canada case numbers
- New Brunswick reported no new cases on Tuesday, for the first time in more than a month. There are 139 known active cases. Twenty-one people are in hospital, including eight in intensive care.
- P.E.I. announced one new case on Tuesday for a total of 13 active cases. One person is in hospital and just moved out of intensive care.
- Newfoundland and Labrador reported two new cases Tuesday for a total of 27 active cases.