A virtual town hall with Nova Scotia’s premier and top doc offered a glimpse into how the province may look in the next few months, as COVID-19 restrictions slowly lift and people “learn to live” with the virus.
The town hall, which was hosted by Premier Iain Rankin and moderated by Halifax Mayor Mike Savage, covered a range of topics including vaccinations, border repenings, tourism and mask mandates.
Both Rankin and Dr. Robert Strang, the chief medical officer of health, said it’s anticipated the province will move into phase 3 of its reopening plan on Wednesday. That stage would allow personal services, such as hair salons and spas, to open fully.
As well, stores would operate at 75 per cent capacity. Wedding ceremonies and funerals would be allowed at 50 per cent capacity up to 100 people indoors and 150 people outdoors.
The province has already said that it will be opening its border to people travelling from New Brunswick without restrictions beginning on Wednesday.
On the topic of international travel, Rankin said he’s keeping an eye on the federal discussions, but he believes it will resume in some form next month.
“We’re watching the variants very closely but I’m optimistic that some time in July, we’ll see some international travel with careful restrictions in place,” Rankin said.
That kind of optimism is what the tourism industry has been looking for. While their sights have been set on the reopening of the Atlantic Bubble and local tourism dollars, their long-term goals include staying resilient after the summer.
“We’re ready to go,” said Darlene Grant Fiander, president of the Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia, during the town hall.
“We anticipate that we’ll have a good season but we need to extend that into the fall, and again build on our winter product as well.”
While restrictions slowly lift and borders open, Strang stressed the importance of vaccination and “personal measures,” such as wearing a mask indoors and maintaining social distance.
He said it’s likely something people will need to keep up right through July.
“At least I would say really through the month of July and then once we get there and we get a much higher coverage rate with the two doses of vaccine … then I think we’re in a place where we can talk about how do we then really start to make that transition to the fifth phase or stage two of our reopening, which is really longer term living with COVID,” he said.
At that point, he believes personal measures might be more of a choice, and no longer a requirement. However, he personally will be wearing a mask indoors during the winter months when “we have lots of respiratory viruses around.”
As for increasing vaccination rates, he said the province is finding ways to encourage younger males to get vaccinated, and is bringing vaccination opportunities to workplaces.
He added that as the province sees higher levels of coverage, he anticipates walk-in clinics for second doses will be available at the end of July and into August.