Nova Scotia has unveiled a five-phase plan to reopen the province as more Nova Scotians get fully vaccinated.
It’s a four-phase plan for one dose of the vaccine and a fifth phase for two doses.
The province said it is beginning its path to recovery starting June 2 where in-person classes will resume at all Nova Scotia public and private schools outside of Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) and Sydney.
Also, licensed child-care centres and family daycare homes across the province can return to 100 per cent capacity.
At-home learning will continue for students in HRM and Sydney, but there will be some exceptions for students with highly complex needs.
During phase one, travel will no longer be restricted within most of Nova Scotia, although people are asked to avoid non-essential travel into and out of Cape Breton Regional Municipality and into and out of areas of HRM, Hubbards, Milford, Lantz, Elmsdale, Enfield, Mount Uniacke, South Uniacke, Ecum Secum and Trafalgar.
“The plan we’re presenting today is based on one dose coverage of vaccine. And it is meant to get us through the summer,” said Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s top doctor, at a COVID-19 briefing.
In September, Strang said if at least 75 per cent of Nova Scotians have received two doses of the vaccine, then things will shift again and there could be very limited restrictions.
More on the recovery plan
The province announced that key changes in phase one include most businesses opening further, outdoor visits at long-term care facilities, and outdoor gathering limits increasing.
“Each phase is based on COVID-19 activity, public health and testing capacity, hospitalizations and vaccination rates,” the province said in a statement.
“Phases are expected to last between two and four weeks as long as certain criteria are met in these areas,” it added.
As Nova Scotia enters the later phases, businesses will gradually increase capacity to the maximum capacity possible with public health measures, and border restrictions will start easing.
Strang also announced that by June 14 the province will launch an on-site testing for traveler arriving at the Halifax airport, and that more details will be shared on the days ahead.
Below are the list of changes that will take place during each of the five phases. In the meantime, effective 8 a.m. on June 2 Phase 1 of the reopening plan will begin:
The reaction of the tourism and business communities
CEO of Ambassatours and Murphys Dennis Campbell said the reopening plan destroys any hope for a summer tourism season.
Campbell said he’s worried that by the time the tourism industry can fully operate again it might be too late for many operators, and even though the Atlantic bubble could return by early July, there are no guarantees.
Because of that, he would like more assurance from the province and says Nova Scotia is being more cautious in the reopening plan than other provinces.
At the COVID-19 briefing, Strang said it’s important to go a bit slower to remain safe.
“We fully anticipate … that we’ll move through these four phases around the middle of July … and that is a little slower than other provinces but we did not follow other provinces when they opened after the first wave, we took a more cautious approach … and that paid off for us,” he said.
Business have also been hurt by the pandemic shutdown, but are hopeful for a strong rebound with the new guidelines, according to Downtown Dartmouth Business Commission director Tim Rissesco.
“Businesses have lost a ton of money over the last few months, and it’s going to take a long time to rebuild consumer confidence and get our businesses out of debt,” said Rissesco.
He said the business commission has been consulting back and forth with the government as businesses were looking for a more concrete plan with data and targets to meet.
“What I would have liked to have seen in the reopening plan was targets with both vaccinations and infection rates and the numbers of cases, if you reach this number of cases you can reopen more,” Rissesco said.
Nova Scotia reported that a woman in her 50s has died due to COVID-19, bringing the total number of virus-related deaths to 80.
The province also reported 40 new cases of COVID-19 and 92 recoveries.
There are 29 cases in Central Zone, five in Eastern Zone, four in Northern Zone and two in Western Zone.
As of Friday, Nova Scotia has 585 active cases of COVID-19. There are 53 people in hospital, including 18 in ICU.
The province said there were 27,023 tests administered between May 21 and 27 at the rapid-testing pop-up sites in Sydney, Brooklyn, Queens Co., Dartmouth and Halifax.
As of May 27, 560,843 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered. Of those, 43,252 Nova Scotians have received their second dose.
Since April 1, Nova Scotia said there have been 3,755 positive COVID-19 cases and 14 deaths. There are 3,156 resolved cases.
-With files from Jesse Thomas