Nova Scotia

7 COVID-19 deaths reported in N.S. as most vaccine passport restrictions lifted

Proof of vaccination for discretionary activities such as going to restaurants, gyms and sporting events is no longer required in Nova Scotia as of Monday. 

Vaccine policy remains in place for high-risk places like hospitals and long-term care homes

Proof of vaccination for discretionary activities such as going to restaurants, gyms and sporting events is no longer required in Nova Scotia as of Monday. (Matthew Howard/CBC)

Phase 1 of Nova Scotia's pandemic reopening plan came into effect Monday as the province announced seven new deaths related to COVID-19.

Proof of vaccination for discretionary activities such as going to restaurants, gyms and sporting events is no longer required. 

However, restrictions remain in place for high-risk places such as hospitals and long-term care homes.

Last week, Premier Tim Houston announced the provincial proof-of-vaccination mandate would be largely lifted Monday. He said all restrictions, including mask mandates, would be lifted in Nova Scotia on March 21 "if everything stays on course."

The Halifax Regional Municipality has also dropped its mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy for municipal employees, students, work placements, volunteers and suppliers. 

The municipality said masking and distancing requirements for indoor public places and Halifax Transit will remain in place, but may change in keeping with public health directives.

Nova Scotia's three-phase opening plan. (Nova Scotia government)

Last week, the province's health authority said it would not allow health-care workers who refused vaccination to return to work when the province drops its proof-of-vaccination requirement. 

In early December, the province placed more than 1,000 public sector workers who refused to adhere to the vaccination policy on leave. That included 323 Nova Scotia Health staff. 

7 COVID-related deaths reported Monday

The seven deaths reported Monday include:

  • A man in his 30s in the central zone.
  • A man in his 60s in the central zone.
  • Two women in their 80s in the central zone.
  • A woman in her 60s in the northern zone.
  • A man in his 70s in the northern zone.
  • A man in his 80s in the northern zone.

The province noted most deaths reported to its disease information system, Panorama, are reflective of "virus in the past ... and not the situation today." This is because information is added to the system after a death is identified as COVID-related, which can take days or weeks to investigate and report.

There were 45 people in designated COVID-19 units at hospitals as of Monday, including 10 in the ICU. The age range of those in hospital was five to 92, with a median age of 59.

Of those in hospital:

  • 11 (24.4 per cent) people have had a third dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
  • 20 (44.4 per cent) were fully vaccinated (two doses).
  • 1 (2.2 per cent) was partially vaccinated.
  • 13 (28.9 per cent) were unvaccinated.

Less than 10 per cent of Nova Scotia's eligible population is not vaccinated. The province says 92.1 per cent of Nova Scotians have received their first dose, and 86.7 per cent have received their second dose.

COVID-19 hospitalizations and death rates 

To date, 88 Nova Scotians have died during the Omicron wave that began in December.

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 as someone who received a booster dose, based on numbers provided by the province and last updated on Feb. 25.

New cases reported

Nova Scotia Health completed 1,941 tests on Feb. 25, 1,512 tests Feb. 26, and 1,449 tests Feb. 27.

An additional 243 new lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 were reported Monday, with 133 cases in the central zone, 24 cases in the eastern zone, 57 cases in the northern zone and 29 cases in the western zone.

There were an estimated 1,967 active cases of COVID-19 in Nova Scotia.

The province noted there will be an increase in new lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported because people with positive rapid tests are to get a confirmatory PCR test. New cases reported will show a greater proportion of overall cases in the province.

Use the screening tool

The province reminded Nova Scotians on Monday to fill out the report and support online screening tool as soon as they book a PCR test or have received a positive rapid test result.

The screening tool assesses a person's risk of developing a serious illness due to COVID-19, as well as their eligibility for medications that could reduce the risk of hospitalization.

Public Health said it's especially important for people in their 60s or older as they are considered to be at a higher risk for serious illness.

Rule changes for travellers

Some of the rules for travellers arriving in Canada also changed on Monday. Travellers now have the option to take a COVID-19 rapid antigen test, instead of a PCR test, the day before their flight. 

Children under 12 travelling with fully vaccinated adults need not wait 14 days before going back to school, camp or daycare and do not have to quarantine while awaiting their test result. 

Fully vaccinated travellers arriving from any country who have been randomly selected for testing at the airport won't have to quarantine while awaiting their test result. 

The federal government is also removing the advisory against non-essential travel for Canadians.

Health authority employees off work

Nova Scotia Health reported 305 employees were off work as of Monday because they were diagnosed as positive for COVID-19, awaiting results of a COVID-19 test or were exposed to a member of their household who tested positive for COVID-19:

  • Western zone: 70.
  • Central zone: 102.
  • Northern zone: 59.
  • Eastern zone: 74.