Nova Scotia announces new measures to support small businesses amid COVID-19
Supports include a rent-deferral program, allowing restaurants to serve alcohol with takeout or delivery
- Nova Scotia confirmed 17 new cases of COVID-19 on March 27
- Most of the new cases are connected to travel or known cases
- There are 90 cases of COVID-19 in Nova Scotia so far
- More supports announced for small businesses
The Nova Scotia government announced new supports Friday for small businesses to help them stay afloat amid the COVID-19 pandemic, including a three-month rent-deferral program.
On Friday, the province announced 17 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, bringing the provincial total to 90.
Premier Stephen McNeil said small business owners shouldn't have to worry about paying rent come April 1.
He announced a rent-deferral program for small business operators who were forced to close under the public health order.
"Landlords will be asked to sign a rent-deferral agreement and government will guarantee up to $5,000 a month if that business goes under," McNeil said.
"The hope here is that these business will be able to come back even stronger. But if not, we want to reduce the risk on the landlord if that is not possible at the end of the lease. Our government will guarantee that three months."
McNeil said restaurants that are doing takeout and delivery to keep afloat will now be allowed to include alcohol with purchases, effective March 30.
The only condition the province mentioned is the alcohol cost is not more than three times the value of food ordered.
Origin of 17 new cases
Most of the new cases are connected to travel or a known case. None of the new cases are connected to the St. Patrick's Day gathering in Lake Echo.
"While today's numbers may be concerning, we are now three weeks into our response and I see this as ... an indication of what we're putting in place is working and it's a success," said Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health.
Strang said COVID-19 testing is expanding, so Nova Scotia will see more cases.
"Don't be surprised over the next week as we get more and more cases ... I see that as a positive. It means that we're more actively looking [for] and identifying cases," he said.
With some of the new cases, Strang said it's too early to say if it was due to community spread.
The 90 people who have tested positive range in age from under 10 to mid-70s, and the cases come from all parts of the province.
Public health is working to find people who may have come into contact with the latest confirmed cases. Those people will be directed to self-isolate at home and away from the public for 14 days.
Possible exposure in Antigonish, New Glasgow
The Nova Scotia Health Authority announced Friday there may have been potential exposure of COVID-19 in Antigonish and New Glasgow:
- Wednesday, March 11 at Highland Eye Care at 193 Dalhousie Street, New Glasgow.
- Thursday, March 12 at the Charles V. Keating Millennium Centre at 1100 Convocation Blvd., Antigonish. There was an event on for the Bantam AAA provincial hockey championship.
Anyone who was at those locations on those dates need to monitor for COVID-19 symptoms, the health authority said in a news release on Friday.
People who may have been exposed on these days are just past the 14-day period when they should self-monitor for symptoms, but 811 should be called if symptoms develop.
Testing for health-care workers
COVID-19 testing has been expanded to health-care workers and people who work in continuing care at the Nova Scotia Health Authority and the IWK Health Centre.
The Nova Scotia Health Authority set up a 1-800 number so workers in those organizations who have respiratory symptoms can call and set up a COVID-19 test.
"We will test them regardless of whether they've travelled or not," Strang said.
He said there are two benefits: it protects health-care workers and will give the authorities a sense of where there may be "pockets of transmission in our communities."
Strang said he's heard of cases where people who have tested positive for COVID-19 have been harassed in their community and on social media.
"That is inappropriate," he said.
"These people need your support, they need your love and caring, so I'm imploring everybody that we all need to be at our best here. We need to be kind and we need to be considerate. Be there and be a friend."
iPads for long-term care homes
McNeil announced the province has bought 800 iPads to be given to seniors in long-term care homes so they can keep in touch with family.
The tablets will begin to arrive at facilities in April.
"I have seen images of grandkids having to visit through the glass, loved ones having to share a smile through the window. We want to make it easier for the elders to stay in touch," McNeil said.
The province has also partnered with Telus to provide 100 phones and calling plans to Community Service's most vulnerable clients who have no other means of communication and may be self-isolating and alone.
More than 3,600 negative tests
So far, there have been 3,649 negative test results in Nova Scotia.
Two people are currently in hospital for COVID-19 treatment. Three people have recovered and their cases are considered resolved.
Anyone who has travelled outside Nova Scotia needs to self-isolate for 14 days from the day they get back to the province, even if they don't have symptoms, which include fever, cough, difficulty breathing and pneumonia.
The province says people potentially ill with COVID-19 need to fill out an online questionnaire to determine if they need to call 811 to arrange a test.
McNeil said the province has provided $1 million to Feed Nova Scotia. He said the province will also be providing $55,000 to support 12 community food banks based on the volume of clients they serve.
He ended the press conference by reminding people to follow the rules.
"It is in our hands to protect one another and I cannot stress this enough: the individual decisions we make will determine how well we flatten the curve," McNeil said.
"If we self-isolate, if we wash our hands, if we self distance, all of those will help us achieve that."