Nova Scotia Premier Iain Rankin said the details still need to be hammered out on what opened borders with fellow Atlantic Canadian provinces will look like, now that New Brunswick has opened its borders to the rest of the country.
As of midnight, New Brunswick opened to Canadians with at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, without the need to self-isolate.
However, the three other Atlantic Canadian provinces had only agreed to open to each other — and only on June 23. Discussions will now have to take place to see how the travel between the Atlantic provinces will look like.
“We found out about this the same time you did and we have calls in to find out what their border plan is,” Rankin told reporters during a briefing Thursday afternoon.
“My understanding is they require one vaccine for travelers so I’m eager to find out more about their plans.”
He said under Nova Scotia’s reopening plans, the province isn’t prepared to open to the rest of the country until July 14 at the earliest.
Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang said he’ll be watching New Brunswick’s epidemiology closely, and pointed out that due to COVID-19’s incubation, it will take at least two weeks to see the impact of their reopening.
“They’re certainly introducing a higher level of risk into their province,” Strang said.
“We’re watching carefully the potential impacts on their province because that has implications for us.”
14 new cases, ‘secondary cases’ in schools
Nova Scotia reported 14 new cases of COVID-19 and nine recoveries on Thursday.
Twelve of the cases are in Central Zone — 11 of which are close contacts of previously-reported cases. One other is under investigation.
One case is in Eastern Zone and is a close contact, while one is in Western Zone and is related to travel.
There are now 97 active cases and six people in hospital.
Strang said it’s “not surprising we’re still seeing new cases” but that so far, most are connected to a known source. He did point out, however, that recent cases have had more contacts, and reminded people to keep their close contacts limited.
The province is currently in the second phase of its five-phase reopening plan. That meant Nova Scotians could begin dining indoors at restaurants and working out in gyms beginning Wednesday.
Meanwhile, another Halifax-area school is closed after health officials identified a single case of COVID-19.
Prospect Road Elementary in Hatchet Lake will be closed to students until Monday to allow for testing of close contacts and a deep cleaning of the school.
Health officials are recommending that all students and staff seek testing as a precaution.
During Thursday’s news conference, Strang confirmed a few of the cases in the “last couple of days” were close contacts within classrooms.
“A few of them are students who have been identified in the same classroom, have been isolated and were tested and are now testing positive,” he said.
“But the fact that they’re testing positive as they’re isolating means there has been no further exposure.”
He says most cases in schools have not resulted in these types of secondary cases.
‘Dramatic surge’ in vaccination
Strang said Thursday the province is making “great progress” in its vaccination program and that about 400,000 doses will be administered this week.
The province is also expecting a large shipment of Moderna. In the past, the province’s inventory has included more Pfizer vaccines, but that is shifting, and there will be more Moderna on hand now.
That’s leading Strang to remind people they should book whichever vaccine is available, because the two mRNA vaccines are interchangeable.
“There’s no substantive difference between Pfizer and Moderna,” he said.
“Take the first available appointment, regardless of what vaccine you got for your first dose.”
The number of doses available in the province also means more people can reschedule their second doses to an earlier date.
Right now, Nova Scotians who received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine on or before May 1 have received an email to rebook.
Strang said 75 per cent of those eligible have already rebooked, and in most cases, have new appointments that are three to five weeks earlier.
The province also plans to expand the number of clinics and clinic hours to accommodate the “dramatic surge” in vaccinations.