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Halifax to hold virtual council meetings starting in April

Halifax city staff are currently working on the details of virtual council meetings.
Halifax city staff are currently working on the details of virtual council meetings. Alexa MacLean/Global Halifax

Halifax has announced its first regional council meeting since it was ordered to go digital by Nova Scotia in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The provincial government declared a state of emergency on March 22, 2020. Part of that declaration saw Chuck Porter, Nova Scotia’s minister of municipal affairs, direct “all municipalities and villages in the province” to discontinue holding their in-person meetings.

Instead, municipalities have been told to hold virtual meetings by video or telephone.

READ MORE: Nova Scotia’s municipal meetings ordered to go digital in response to coronavirus

The Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) announced on Thursday that council will hold virtual meetings on April 2, April 14 and April 28.

Each meeting will begin at 1 p.m., and deal with issues determined by the CAO and Mayor Mike Savage, a press release from the HRM read.

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The municipality is still testing various technologies to explore whether residents and media are able to access the meeting in real-time.

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But if they are unable to make that work, the municipality has confirmed they will post the meeting’s minutes within 24 hours.

Nova Scotia biologists working around the clock to test COVID-19
Nova Scotia biologists working around the clock to test COVID-19

An audio recording of the entire meeting will also be made available and municipal staff are exploring whether a video recording of the meeting is possible.

The agenda and reports for the April 2 meeting will be posted on the HRM’s website on March 31.

If Porter’s order is violated, individuals could face a summary conviction with fines ranging between $500 and $10,000 and up to $100,000 for a corporation per incident.

The minister’s order will remain in place until the state of emergency is ended or the minister issues new directions.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

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Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.