Halifax area to enter 4-week lockdown to contain surge in COVID-19 cases
Restrictions introduced as province records highest number of new cases in almost a year.
Strict restrictions are returning to the Halifax Regional Municipality and some surrounding communities as the region grapples with high numbers of daily new cases of COVID-19.
The province reported 38 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, the highest daily case count in the province in a year, and a number only surpassed during the worst early days of the pandemic.
In response, Premier Iain Rankin announced a four-week lockdown for the Halifax Regional Municipality and communities of Hubbards, Milford, Lantz, Elmsdale, Enfield, South Uniacke, Ecum Secum and Trafalgar.
Several schools in the Dartmouth area will be closed for two weeks and students will learn remotely.
"Our case numbers are rising too rapidly and there's now community spread within the Halifax municipality," Rankin said.
Effective 8 a.m. Friday, Nova Scotians are urged to avoid all non-essential travel into or out of the Halifax area.
Most schools in the Halifax area will remain open, but students in all grades starting with pre-primary will be required to wear masks.
The Auburn Drive High family of schools, Cole Harbour District High family of schools, Dartmouth High family of schools , École secondaire Mosaïque, École du Carrefour and École Bois-Joli will close for two weeks effective Friday as studies shift to at-home learning.
Daycare facilities will also remain open in the Halifax area.
The indoor and outdoor gathering limit for the Halifax area has been reduced to five people, but an exception will be made for large families living in the same home.
Retail businesses and malls in the Halifax area will be limited to operating at 25 per cent capacity and restaurants will be able to offer takeout only.
Rankin said help will be offered to affected businesses through the Nova Scotia Small Business Impact Grant.
"We need to cut off the virus before it becomes a bigger issue or spreads to other parts of the province," he said.
Speaking at the briefing, Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health, said he was confident that Nova Scotia was "doing the right things at the right time."
"I"ll be honest. This situation scares me, but I know we have the ability to regain control," he said.
Strang said social events, festivals and cultural events will also not be allowed in the Halifax area for four weeks, but wedding and funeral ceremonies will be allowed to have five people attending in addition to the officiants.
As was the case in the last lockdown, indoor fitness and recreational activities will not be allowed in the affected area.
Strang said outdoor activities are not restricted as long as people observe gathering limits and distancing requirements.
While general outdoor activities are allowed and encouraged, restrictions extend to organized sports, practice and training.
Strang said golf courses and outdoor tennis courts will be allowed to operate in the affected area, but any associated restaurants or licensed establishments must close.
As of Friday, masks will be mandatory in all common areas and places where there is interaction with other members of the public, including private indoor workplaces.
Thirty-three of the new cases reported Thursday are in central health zone, with two related to travel outside of Atlantic Canada and two related to travel outside of Canada. Nineteen of the central zone cases are close contacts of previously reported cases and 10 are under investigation.
Two of those untraced are connected to schools — Bell Park Academic Centre in Lake Echo and Shannon Park Elementary in Dartmouth.
Three of the new cases are in the eastern zone and are related to travel outside Atlantic Canada. One case is in the northern zone and is connected to travel outside Atlantic Canada, and one in the western zone and is connected to travel outside Canada.
The province says the individuals are self-isolating. The new cases bring the total active case count up to 111.
Thursday's case count is the worst since April 23, 2020, when the province reported 55 new cases. On Nov. 24, new cases reached 37, prompting increased health restrictions. Daily case numbers began to subsequently decline.
Spike in new cases
Nova Scotia saw a spike in new cases on Wednesday, reporting 25 new cases. There have also been a handful of cases in recent days connected to schools in the Halifax Regional Municipality. School-related cases in the province are tracked on an Education Department website.
Late Thursday, COVID-19 cases were announced at five schools.
Dartmouth South Academy and Ross Road School have one case each. Both were included in a list of schools released earlier in the day that are closed to in-person learning for a two-week period.
One case is connected to St. Catherine's Elementary in Halifax. The school will be closed for a deep cleaning until April 28.
Holland Road Elementary has one case and will also remain closed until April 28. Students will switch to at-home learning until it reopens.
A case has also been identified at St. Joseph's-Alexander McKay Elementary, which is already closed because of a previous case and is expected to reopen on April 26.
The five new cases were reported after the cut-off for daily reporting and were not included in Nova Scotia's COVID-19 figures for Thursday. They will be included in Friday's COVID-19 reporting.
Public Health will get in touch with anyone who was in close contact with the affected individual, 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 school get tested.
New exposure sites
Late Thursday evening, the health authority issued several potential COVID-19 exposure notices for three Air Canada flights and locations in the central, western and northern health zones.
Pop-up testing centres
Nova Scotia Health has announced a number of pop-up rapid testing locations.
On Thursday, testing is available at the Halifax Convention Centre at 1650 Argyle St. from noon to 7 p.m.
Testing will also be available at the Sackville Sports Stadium at 409 Glendale Dr., Lower Sackville, on Friday from noon to 7 p.m.
The Dartmouth North Community Centre at 105 Highfield Park Dr. will have rapid testing available on Saturday from 9:30 to 4:30 p.m.
On Sunday, testing will be available at the East Dartmouth Community Centre at 50 Caledonia Rd. in Dartmouth from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Atlantic Canada case numbers
- New Brunswick reported 19 new cases on Thursday . There are 146 known active cases. Fifteen people are in hospital, including five in intensive care.
- P.E.I. announced one new case on Thursday for a total of 12 active cases. One person is in hospital.
- Newfoundland and Labrador reported three new cases Thursday for a total of 26 active cases.