Nova Scotia’s premier is reiterating that the province is not taking a phased approach to reopening the economy, despite outlining a five-step approach to reopening two weeks ago.
At the legislature Thursday, Premier Stephen McNeil said the province “very clearly” stated it will not be opening the economy with a phased approach, despite other provinces opting for it.
“When we open up the economy, it won’t be that we’re going to do one thing today and have other sectors of our economy wait three weeks,” he said. “We will be opening it up with the strict guidelines. You need to have public health protocols approved, and then you can go to work.
“I’m not sure why that has been difficult for people to understand.”
But about two weeks ago, Dr. Robert Strang, the province’s chief medical officer of health, presented an initial five-step reopening plan outline to business groups based on federal guidelines.
There were few details on each phase, except to say that low-risk businesses could open first, then medium- and high-risk businesses. Each phase would increase the group gathering limit.
At the time, Strang said they were working with business associations to determine when they could open, and that even industries considered “high risk” could potentially open up sooner if they presented a solid safety plan that was approved by public health.
On two different occasions now, the province has eased some of the restrictions that were put in place in March, when the province declared a state of emergency.
Parks and trails reopened first, as well as sportfishing, driving ranges and people were given permission to go to their cottages.
Then, a week later, came the loosening of restrictions on archery, equestrianism, golf, paddling, sailing/boating and tennis.
Each time, Strang highlighted the importance of waiting for one to two incubation periods to watch the epidemiology before deciding if they could lift further restrictions.
And despite claiming the province would not be using a phased approach, McNeil said Wednesday the province is currently in the “phase” of communicating reopening protocols with businesses.
“We were very clear we’re through a process right now, a phase right now where step one is making sure we go out and communicate to organizations that represent businesses across the province,” McNeil said Wednesday. “We’re currently doing follow up with them now to make sure they are communicating that back to their respective association members.
“When we’re ready to open up the economy, the economy will open. It will be up to business owners to decide if they want to open in the new normal.”
But some businesses are still unclear over what is required required.
“I think the confusion in Nova Scotia has been, in many provinces they were closed to all but essential services. In Nova Scotia we were never closed to that level,” said Patrick Sullivan, President and CEO of the Halifax Chamber of Commerce.
“We need to ensure the businesses that can be open today know what to do to ensure cleanliness and the safety of customers. We do have to ensure that there is clarity and clarity certainly from the government as we go on.”
For the businesses that were mandated to shut down, the premier has said the hope is to reopen the economy sometime in early in June, something about which the leader of the province’s opposition is critical.
“The fact of the matter is the premier says on the one hand we’re just going to flick the switch and everything’s going to open sometime in June, but that’s not a plan,” he said.
“In the second breath the premier says, ‘well, people need to know what are the protocols and when.’ That’s exactly what people want to know. What are the protocols? When can they expect to reopen?
“Just blurting it out at the 3 o’clock press conference that people can now golf, it created a lot of issues for (golf courses) to make sure they’re prepared.”
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