Restaurants and licensed liquor establishments in Nova Scotia are now allowed to operate at 100 per cent capacity and stay open until 1 a.m. as part of the newly announced easing of restriction measures in the province.
During a press briefing Friday afternoon, Premier Stephen McNeil said patrons will be allowed to be served until midnight and must leave by 1 a.m. while continuing to follow the business sector plans.
“We’ve now had more than two weeks with no new cases of COVID-19, and Nova Scotians are getting back to normal activities while maintaining precautions,” said McNeil.
“Continuing the core measures of physical distancing and hand hygiene is how we will keep our case numbers low, especially as we increase gathering limits and welcome Atlantic Canadian visitors to Nova Scotia.”
Also effective Friday, private campgrounds can operate at 100 per cent capacity and people living in homes funded by disability support programs can resume going out into their communities, although it may take time for homes to make arrangements.
“We ask that Nova Scotians be kind and understanding as they begin to re-engage with our wider community,” said McNeil.
Public pools are also allowed to reopen.
McNeil said people will still not be able to visit family members in long-term care facilities without restrictions, noting that it’s still too risky to open them to the public.
“We are working on a plan to open up our long-term care facilities, but we are not there yet.”
Gathering limits to increase July 3
Effective Friday, July 3, if a recognized business or organization is planning an event outdoors, 250 people can attend with physical-distancing rules in place.
For an indoor event, the limit is 50 per cent capacity to a maximum of 200, again with physical distancing.
Gatherings not run by a recognized business or organization, for example a family event in the backyard, are still subject to the 50-person maximum limit with physical distancing unless you’re in your close social group of 10.
“This is to protect you are hosting a family event in your community,” said McNeil. “It shouldn’t be on you as an individual to monitor people’s behaviours. Business and event planners get paid to do that. That is why they have a higher gathering limit.”
The expanded gathering limits apply to social events, faith gatherings, weddings, funerals and other cultural events and arts and culture events like theatre performances, dance recitals, festivals and concerts.
People can continue to gather in close social groups of up to 10 without physical distancing. People in a group are not required to be exclusive, but they are strongly encouraged to maintain a consistent group.
The province says people should not gather in random or spontaneous groups of 10. Businesses that are too small to ensure physical distancing can still have no more than 10 people on their premises at a time with as much physical distancing as possible.
On Wednesday, the province announced Nova Scotia would be joining New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador in the formation of a regional travel bubble.
Interprovincial travel will be allowed to happen between Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador without self-isolation.
Use of non-medical masks
Dr. Robert Strang, the province’s chief medical officer of health, recommended that all Nova Scotians wear a non-medical mask in situations where distancing may not be possible, such as in stores, on public transit or at gatherings.
“Wearing a mask is a way of showing that we care about other people, and we ask them to wear a mask so they can care about us,” said Strang.
The exceptions are children under two or anyone who has a medical reason for not wearing a mask.
“Unless you can be 100 per cent sure that you’re going to be able to maintain distance, you should be having a medical mask and using that,” he said.
Yarmouth-to-Maine ferry cancelled
During the briefing, McNeil also announced the 2020 sailing season for the Yarmouth-to-Maine ferry will be cancelled.
McNeil said he is concerned about the current number of cases coming out of the United States.
“We will eventually open Nova Scotia up even more to other Canadian provinces, but opening up to the U.S. in the near future does not seem safe,” he said.
McNeil said the ferry was ready to sail out of Bar Harbour, Maine, and is calling the situation “disappointing.”
“We are very hopeful that the ferry will be back next year and we will welcome tourists,” he said.
Zero new cases for 17 days
Friday marked the 17th day in a row that Nova Scotia did not report a new case of COVID-19.
The last new case was identified on June 9. There are currently no active cases in the province.
The QEII Health Sciences Centre’s microbiology lab completed 468 tests on Thursday.
To date, Nova Scotia has had 52,553 negative test results, 1,061 COVID-19 cases and 63 deaths.
Two people are currently in hospital. The province says both patients’ COVID-19 infections are considered resolved but they are being treated in hospital.
The province said it is renewing the state of emergency to protect the health and safety of Nova Scotians and ensure the safe reopening of businesses and services.
The order will take effect at noon on Sunday and extend to noon Sunday, July 12, unless the government terminates or extends it.
Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
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. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus.
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