Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia students will not go back to school this year

Premier Iain Rankin said during a briefing Wednesday that children and teachers will continue online learning for the rest of the school year, and current lockdown restrictions in the province will last at least until June 9.

The province announced 2 deaths related to COVID-19 Wednesday and 83 new cases

Premier Iain Rankin and Dr. Robert Strang, the province's chief medical officer of health. (Communications Nova Scotia)

Students in Nova Scotia will not return to their classrooms for the rest of the school year, the province said Wednesday as it announced 83 new cases of COVID-19 and two more deaths.

Premier Iain Rankin told a briefing that children and teachers will continue online learning for the rest of the school year, and current lockdown restrictions in the province will last at least until June 9.

"To the students, I know that's difficult that you won't be able to go back in person and see your friends," he said. "To the parents, I want to thank them for staying at home and keeping their children at home and learning from home. And to our teachers, thank you for your hard work and patience."

Dr. Robert Strang, the province's chief medical officer of health, said the upcoming Victoria Day long weekend will have to be a quiet one similar to last year.

"The variants make this a very different and difficult situation right now," he said.

The Nova Scotia Teachers Union said Wednesday it supports the province's decision to extend remote learning through the rest of the school year.

"This was a difficult decision, which demonstrates a deep commitment on the part of Dr. Strang and Premier Rankin to the safety of students, teachers, school staff, and families," union president Paul Wozney said in a statement.

Provincial campgrounds closed

Provincial park campgrounds are closed and private campgrounds can only be open for seasonal campers. No short-term camping is allowed at this time.

People can go to their cottage or seasonal campsite outside their community, but only if they are staying there for the next few months. They cannot go back and forth between these places and their primary residence.

"That's not very much to ask when many people are struggling for a lot more. We have people struggling for their lives in hospital," Strang said during the briefing.

Rankin said the provincial government hopes to have a reopening strategy to share soon, so people and organizations can plan their summer.

Lifting of restrictions will be slow

Strang noted it will likely follow the same slow trend as last spring to ensure there is not a resurgence of COVID-19.

The two deaths announced Wednesday occurred in the central and eastern zones. Both people were in their 60s. There have now been 74 deaths related to COVID-19 in Nova Scotia.

The province also reported 164 recoveries, bringing the number of active cases to 1,262. Nova Scotia health authority's labs completed 7,324 tests on Tuesday.

Of the 83 new cases, 59 are in the central zone, 19 in the eastern zone, three in the western zone and two in the northern zone.

Community spread in Sydney

The 19 cases in the eastern zone are all in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality. Public Health has been unable to find the origin of a number of those cases, indicating that there is community spread in Sydney.

Strang said the majority of the Sydney cases are in the 20- to 30-year-old range which is "most concerning" since the province hasn't seen this type of local transmission in other areas.

The province has added new pop-up testing sites to Sydney this week, including at Centre 200.

One of the cases in the central zone involves a staff member at The Ivy Meadows. It is the second case involving a staff member at the long-term care facility in Beaver Bank. Most residents have been fully vaccinated with two doses of COVID-19 vaccine.

Too early to ease restrictions, says Strang

There are 101 people in hospital in Nova Scotia, including 20 in intensive care units. The median age of people hospitalized in the third wave is 57 for non-ICU, and 59 for people in ICU.

Strang told CBC Radio's Information Morning on Wednesday that numbers are still "nowhere near" where they need to be to start easing public health restrictions.

He said one requirement for rolling back restrictions is greater vaccination. He'd like to see 75 per cent of all Nova Scotians vaccinated.

There has been strong vaccine uptake among Nova Scotians aged 60 and up, with more than 80 per cent vaccinated with at least one shot. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

"I firmly believe we can meet that target, but it's not just about vaccine, you also have to look at the disease epidemiology," Strang said. "If our case rates come down substantively over the next few weeks, we don't have to be at that 75 per cent target to start to open up restrictions.

"If we're going to be able to have a much less restricted summer we have to have the disease under control and have high vaccination rates."

Currently, about 40 per cent of eligible Nova Scotians have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine. In order to meet the 75 per cent target, Strang said 85 per cent of those eligible to get the shot will have to do so.

COVID-19 vaccines are now approved for children starting at age 12.

Nova Scotians aged 30 and up can now book vaccine appointments, and earlier this week Rankin and Strang said they expected all eligible Nova Scotians to be able to book appointments by next week.

Permanent residents get automatic approval

During Wednesday's briefing, Strang also addressed border restrictions and the safe check-in application system.

He said starting Thursday morning, permanent residents will get automatic approval to enter Nova Scotia providing they present documented proof at the border, which could include an ID, driver's licence or utility bill showing a permanent address.

The system is also being broadened for rotational workers. Strang said one full application with the necessary documents will still be required, such as a letter from an employer. But moving forward, those workers will have a record on file so future applications can be approved faster.

Increased N.B. border screening

As of Wednesday, anyone travelling between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia at Sackville-Amherst and at Baie-Verte-Tidnish Road may notice increased screening, according to a New Brunswick government release. 

Travellers entering New Brunswick need an approved travel registration and any supporting documentation, though frequent travellers between the two provinces may be eligible for a special pass.

Travel between both provinces remains restricted. 

Atlantic Canada case numbers

  • New Brunswick reported eight new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday, and reported its 43rd death. The province now has 116 active cases.
  • Newfoundland and Labrador reported three new cases Wednesday for a total of 78 active cases, as the province closes in on 50 per cent vaccination of eligible residents with at least one dose.
  • P.E.I. reported five new cases on Wednesday. The province has 14 active cases.