On Friday, Nova Scotia began to ease some of the restrictions put in place in March when the province declared a state of emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Parks and trails have been reopened, the sportfishing season was allowed to begin, driving ranges opened and people were given permission to go to their cottages.
Premier Stephen McNeil said the decision to ease restrictions regarding outdoor recreation was for people’s mental health as the province collectively grieves over two tragedies in as many weeks.
Both McNeil and Dr. Robert Strang, the province’s chief medical officer of health, say they are also working on plans to reopen the economy, though they have emphasized on numerous occasions that it will be a slow process.
On Wednesday, Strang said he would not be giving any timelines, as reopening will be a phased approach, with each phase depending on the success of the previous one.
“If opening up the outdoors even in a modest way has resulted in increased COVID transmission, that to me tells us we’re not ready to go further,” said Strang.
The province’s chief medical officer of health says officials will closely be watching the epidemiology, but it will take one to two incubation periods — approximately 21 to 28 days — before Nova Scotia starts seeing if easing restrictions is having an impact.
Meanwhile, businesses are already starting to look at how they will reopen when given permission.
Although driving ranges are now allowed to open, golf courses are still closed.
Andrew McGrath, general manager of Granite Springs Golf Club, says that when his business opens, things will look different this season.
“There will be signage throughout the course of physical distancing: you can’t touch the flag, no rakes in the bunkers, no ball washers,” said McGrath.
There will also be limited amenities.
All payments and bookings will be done online, the clubhouse will be closed and any food would be takeaway only. There will also be longer waits between tee times to promote social distancing, though McGrath says the length of time in between tee times is dependent on the advice his company gets from public health.
Restaurants are also among those businesses that were required to shut down. Brendan Doherty with the Old Triangle says the establishment will reopen as soon as it’s allowed, but what that will look like is also dependent on public health guidelines.
“It’s going to be more of a rebuilding than it is a reopening,” said Doherty.
“Because the Old Triangle’s business model was based on 1,000 people coming through the door every day for five months of the year and that’s just not going to happen this year.”
Doherty says the restaurant had already removed half of its tables from the building before it was forced to close, adding he is anxious to hear more about what the rules around capacity will be when restaurants can start reopening.
Paul MacKinnon with the Downtown Halifax Business Commission said patios will likely play a large role in helping to address capacity issues, and he says there are already discussions happening with the municipality about possibly removing patio fees for this year.
“I think that will really help the restaurants in terms of just trying to get people back in within a safe manner and within the new rules that would be set,” said MacKinnon. “I think that would really bring back the morale of the city.”
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.
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.
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