N.S. declares state of emergency in response to COVID-19
People cannot gather in groups of more than 5; police authorized to enforce social distancing, self-isolation
Nova Scotia declared a state of emergency Sunday morning in the face of COVID-19, limiting social gatherings to no more than five people.
The provincial government held a press conference in Halifax to provide an update.
Police are now authorized to enforce orders under the Health Protection Act related to self-isolation and social distancing, and can issue summary offence tickets for people who do not adhere to those orders.
Justice Minister Mark Furey said the number of people not adhering to social distancing left the province with "no choice" but to authorize police enforcement.
Effective immediately, individuals can be fined $1,000 for each violation of the Health Protection Act. Businesses and corporations can be fined $7,500 for each violation, and for each subsequent day.
Individuals and businesses can be fined on multiple days if they fail to comply with the law.
Businesses can also be fined for charging higher than fair market price for goods and services.
Premier Stephen McNeil said the measures may appear harsh but they are "necessary."
"We are dealing with a deadly virus, and this behaviour is unacceptable," he said.
Essential vs. non-essential
Essential businesses like gas stations, grocery stores and pharmacies are exempt from gathering limits, but families should identify one person to make the trip to minimize how many people are out in public.
Other groups exempt from the gathering limit include construction sites, health-care services, child protection services, criminal justice services and law enforcement.
Shopping malls and non-essential businesses can remain open as long as they adhere to social distancing guidelines, meaning people must keep a distance of two metres.
All provincial parks and trails within them are closed. Visitors will be considered trespassers and their vehicles can be towed. Provincial trails not within a provincial park or beach will remain open for people to get fresh air and exercise, but gathering limits and social distancing guidelines must be followed.
Municipalities across the province are also closing their parks, beaches, trails, playgrounds and sports fields/courts.
Anyone entering N.S. must self-isolate
Effective 6 a.m. Monday, Nova Scotia's borders will be tightened. Anyone who has travelled outside the province will need to self-isolate for 14 days upon returning.
McNeil said this will be managed at entry points throughout the province: the ferries in Digby and North Sydney, the airports in Halifax and Sydney, and the land border with New Brunswick.
Exceptions will be made for people providing essential services, like trucking, health care and law enforcement.
"For those who are not essential service and want to enter our province for social purposes, please stay home," McNeil said.
28 cases total
The province also announced seven new presumptive cases, all related to travel or close contact. So far, Nova Scotia has reported 28 confirmed and presumptive cases in total.
Dr. Robert Strang, the province's chief public health officer, said although there has been no community spread in Nova Scotia, he expects it will happen soon. As of Sunday's update, more than 2,100 people in the province had been tested for COVID-19.
Those affected in Nova Scotia range in age from late teens to mid-70s. The cases are spread throughout Nova Scotia.
A lab at the QEII in Halifax is now able to report positive and negative tests as confirmed, meaning tests no longer have to be sent to a national lab in Winnipeg.
The state of emergency comes into effect today and will remain until April 5.