Travellers entering Nova Scotia from New Brunswick will now be required to self-isolate for 14 days, provincial health officials announced on Friday.
The change comes into effect on Saturday at 8 a.m. and is the result of an increasing number of novel coronavirus cases in New Brunswick, which as of Friday has reported 136 cases since the beginning of the year.
“Given the sharp rise in cases in New Brunswick, we are taking the step of tightening our border to limit opportunities for the virus to spread,” Premier Stephen McNeil said.
McNeil and Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health, announced the decision at a COVID-19 update on Friday.
Strang pointed to the “substantive spread” in New Brunswick as the rationale behind implementing the self-isolation period.
The changes mean that individuals crossing the Nova Scotia-New Brunswick border will now need to fill out the safe check-in form, which is available on the province’s website.
Strang stressed that an exemption for the self-isolation period will be in place for health-care workers, for individuals needing essential medical care and for those who make daily crossings for work.
The 14-day self-isolation will not apply to travellers from other Atlantic provinces such as individuals from Prince Edward Island who travel through New Brunswick to reach Nova Scotia as long as they do not stop while travelling through New Brunswick.
However, anyone who arrived from New Brunswick or had visitors from the province over the past 14 days is being urged to get tested as soon as possible.
Tests can be arranged at Nova Scotia’s self-assessment website.
Travellers should be prepared for a similar setup at the provincial as to when the Atlantic Bubble first opened last year. That will likely include a queue for vehicles.
Strang also confirmed that provincial schools will reopen on Monday as previously planned and thanked them for making the school a success so far.
“You’re in school during an extraordinary time. We’ve asked a lot of you and you really have stepped up,” Strang said, directly addressing students of the province’s schools.
“When you head back to classes on Monday, be safe, be smart and be kind.”
He urged post-secondary students arriving from anywhere except P.E.I. and Newfoundland and Labrador to get tested on day 6, 7 or 8 of their self-isolation.
Students arriving from New Brunswick are being urged to check with their schools about any potential changes in residence accommodations related to self-isolation.
“While our case numbers are improving, we are not out of the woods yet, especially given the risk of importing cases through travel from other jurisdictions,” said Dr. Strang.
“We continue to ask people not to travel unless it’s necessary, follow all the public health measures, and get tested even if you don’t have symptoms to help protect your families, friends and communities.”
The province also announced that it is rolling back some restrictions that were set to be in placed until Jan. 25.
They include an increase in the operating limit for retail businesses and malls to 50 per cent.
The Halifax Casino, VLTs and First Nations gaming establishments in the Halifax Regional Municipality are also now permitted to re-open.
Friday’s update comes as the province reports two new cases of COVID-19 in the province.
One case is located in the eastern zone and one case is in the central zone. Both cases are related to travel outside Atlantic Canada, the province confirmed in a press release.
There are now 29 active cases in the province.
The province says it completed 1,831 tests on Jan. 7 and administered 558 tests at rapid pop-up testing sites in the Halifax Regional Municipality.
Nova Scotia has reported 1,526 cases of the virus since the pandemic began, of which 1,432 cases are considered resolved.
Officials say 65 people have died from the coronavirus.
On Friday the province also renewed its state of emergency for another 14-day period. It will last until Jan. 24, unless terminated or extended.