Nova Scotia to lift all COVID-19 restrictions by March 21
Premier Tim Houston says restrictions will be lifted if 'everything stays on course'
Nova Scotia is on track to lift all remaining COVID-19 restrictions by March 21, just a day shy of the two-year anniversary of the province declaring a state of emergency to contain the pandemic.
Premier Tim Houston made the announcement during a press briefing on Wednesday afternoon. He said the restrictions will be lifted if "everything stays on course."
"This is significant and I know as much as this is the news so many have been waiting for there are many, many others who are extremely nervous by that news," Houston said.
"But no matter what emotions you are experiencing, right now we can all agree that this has been a long, long run."
Houston praised health-care professionals who "stepped up when we needed them" and put themselves at risk in the name of public health and safety. He also thanked Nova Scotia Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang in helping get the province to this point.
"We thank you Dr. Strang, you are one of a kind," Houston said.
Proof of vaccination
Houston said "COVID zero" is not a reality right now. He said "living with COVID" has to be our new reality.
"You should see this as a return to normalcy," Houston said.
Proof of vaccination for discretionary activities, such as going to the gym, restaurants, sports or arts and cultural events, will no longer be required as of Feb. 28, but it will still be required for a while longer in higher-risk settings like hospitals and long-term care homes.
"Proof of vaccination for discretionary activities was always meant to be temporary measure to protect us. After nearly five months, we're in a place now where it's no longer required for day-to-day activities," Strang said.
Phase 2 starts March 7
Strang said phase two will begin earlier on March 7 "with some adjustments."
This means places like restaurants and bars, finance facilities and movie theatres can operate at 75 per cent capacity with distancing "as much can be achieved with their specific physical space." He said this also applies to events like tournaments, competitions, faith gatherings and meetings.
The informal gathering limit will be 25 people indoors but increase to 50 outdoors.
Masks will still be required for indoor public spaces, but starting March 7 you will be able to remove your mask to eat and drink while in seats at the movies, concerts and sports events.
"We all know there is some risk of exposure when we're out and about but we also know how to reduce our risk," Strang said.
"We know to stay home and get tested if we develop cold or flu-like symptoms even if they are mild."
Also during the second phase, people who test positive for COVID-19 will still be required to self-isolate but they will no longer be required to notify close contacts outside their own household.
49 people in COVID-19 hospital units
Masking at schools will be required until after the March Break holiday.
The province will move to weekly COVID-19 updates instead of daily updates on March 7.
Nova Scotia reported 49 people in designated COVID-19 hospital units on Wednesday, with 11 people in the ICU.
The age range of those in hospital is 18 to 96 years old, with a median age of 67. The average length of stay in the hospital is 6½ days.
On Tuesday, Nova Scotia Health Authority labs completed 1,617 tests and an additional 200 new lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 are being reported. There are 63 new cases in central zone, 52 in eastern zone, 39 in northern zone and 46 in western zone.
As of Wednesday, there are an estimated 1,898 active cases of COVID-19 in Nova Scotia.
The vaccination status of those in hospital is:
- 13 (26.5 per cent) people have had a third dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
- 22 (44.9 per cent) are fully vaccinated (two doses).
- 1 (2.0 per cent) is partially vaccinated.
- 13 (26.5 per cent) are unvaccinated.
Only about 7.9 per cent of Nova Scotians remain unvaccinated.
Unvaccinated Nova Scotians are about 5½ times more likely to be hospitalized due to COVID-19 than someone with two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. That is based on average hospitalizations since the province started releasing daily hospitalization numbers by vaccine status on Jan. 4.
Unvaccinated people are about 4½ times as likely to die of COVID-19 during the Omicron wave than someone who had received a booster dose, based on numbers provided by the province and last updated on Feb. 17.
As of Tuesday, 92.1 per cent of Nova Scotians have received at least one dose of vaccine and 86.4 per cent have received their second dose.
The province reported three deaths related to COVID-19 on Tuesday, bringing the total number of deaths during the Omicron wave to 79. As of Tuesday, there were 53 people in designated hospital units, including 12 people in intensive care.
According to Nova Scotia Health, 362 employees are off work as of Tuesday because they've either tested positive for COVID-19, are awaiting results of a test, or they've been exposed to someone in their household who has tested positive. The breakdown of those absences are as follows: Western zone: 72; Central zone: 135; Northern zone: 69; Eastern zone: 86.