New numbers released by the province puts the government’s insistence it granted exceptions to Nova Scotia’s COVID-19 restrictions in only “rare” circumstances under scrutiny.
Between March 28 and July 31 the province granted approximately three-quarters of all requests it received.
The figures, obtained by Global News through a freedom of information request indicates that more than a thousand people were able to secure exemptions to the province’s COVID-19 restrictions, which include a requirement to self-isolate for 14 days when entering the province.
Global News filed the request in July after three executives with Irving Shipbuilding had their exemptions revoked following complaints by the union representing workers at the Irving Shipbuilding yards in Halifax.
In a post in an internal union Facebook group obtained by Global News, the union says it was disappointed that some of the executives were allowed to return to work before a 14-day self-isolation process.
“I did give an exception in June with very tight restrictions, but now after concerns have been raised, I have revoked that exception and made clear there will be no further company travel to or from the U.S.,” said Strang in July, explaining why he revoked the three Irving executives’ exceptions.
At the time the province said that exemptions were granted in only “rare” cases.
But the data provided by the province indicates exceptions were granted in 72 per cent of all requests.
In total, the province granted 901 exceptions to the restrictions, covering a total of 1,104 people.
A review of the data indicates that 186 people with 89 businesses were granted exemptions.
The names of the businesses were not released but at least two were the Irving Shipbuilding executives that had their exceptions revoked in July.
Only 348 of the requests filed with the province in the same time period were turned down.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the province said it grants exceptions “based on balancing risk and necessity” and that they continue to “evolve” their processes throughout the pandemic.
“We are currently working on some adjustments to the process,” said Marla MacInnis.
She stressed that 478 of the exceptions — more than half — were granted for compassionate reasons, letting people attend funerals or be with a family member at the end of life.
Other exceptions were granted for health-care workers and those who maintain medical equipment as well as rotational workers such as those that work in the oil patch, northern mines or bush pilots.
Some of the businesses that were granted exceptions did so because they required specialized workers from out of province to fix equipment.
The province said those who were denied exceptions were for a variety of reasons.
“An exception would be denied if the applicant’s situation does not meet our criteria, if they don’t provide information on how they will self-isolate during their first 14 days in the province, or if they are unwilling to self-isolate aside from the reason for the exception,” said MacInnis.