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N.S. to lift all COVID-19 restrictions on March 21, proof of vaccination gone Feb. 28

Click to play video: 'Nova Scotia to lift all COVID-19 restrictions next month'
Nova Scotia to lift all COVID-19 restrictions next month
WATCH: Nova Scotia will lift all COVID-19 restrictions next month, and that includes mask requirements. The province is also ending its proof of vaccination requirements for non-essential events and activities beginning Monday. Callum Smith has more on how the province is learning to live with COVID-19 – Feb 23, 2022

Nova Scotia is poised to remove all COVID-19 restrictions as of March 21, the premier announced on Wednesday.

Premier Tim Houston called it a “return to normalcy” and acknowledged the “divided” environment the world is in, which has recently seen protests against COVID-19 mandates.

“No matter the emotions you are experiencing right now we can all agree that this has been a long, long run,” said Houston.

“We know that COVID-zero is not a reality, at least not right now. Living with COVID — that is the reality. That has to become our new reality.”

He said that restrictions will slowly begin to ease, with all restrictions set to be lifted by March 21 so long as everything “stays the course.”

Click to play video: 'Nova Scotia to scrap all COVID-19 restrictions by March 21'
Nova Scotia to scrap all COVID-19 restrictions by March 21

The proof of vaccination policy in the province, which only allowed fully-vaccinated Nova Scotians to take part in “discretionary activities” such as dining in a restaurant, will be removed Feb. 28.

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Houston said he respects that the removal of restrictions is a “scary thought for some Nova Scotians” but said high vaccination numbers and the sacrifices made over the past two years have made this possible.

Dr. Robert Strang, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said more people are being discharged from hospital due to COVID-19 than being admitted. He added that outbreaks in vulnerable settings have decreased and new case numbers are declining.

“However we have to remember our acute care system is still under tremendous strain and recovery will be slow but it will happen,” he said.

Health officials said Wednesday there were 49 people in hospital receiving specialized care in a designated COVID-19 unit, a drop of four patients from Tuesday.

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There were 11 patients in intensive care, down one from Tuesday.

There were also 125 people who were admitted to hospital for other reasons and then tested positive for COVID-19 or were initially admitted for COVID-19 but no longer require specialized care. As well, there were 178 people who contracted the virus while in hospital.

Another 200 new lab-confirmed cases were reported in the province, bringing the estimated active case count to 1,898.

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Click to play video: 'COVID-19: Nova Scotia removes proof of vaccination requirement starting Feb. 28'
COVID-19: Nova Scotia removes proof of vaccination requirement starting Feb. 28

Phase 2 to begin early, no restrictions in schools after March Break

The province is set to begin Phase 2 of its latest reopening plan a week early on March 7, with some adjustments.

Bars, restaurants and gyms will be allowed to operate at 75 per cent capacity with distancing “as much as can be achieved,” said Strang.

Large venues will also be allowed 75 per cent capacity, up to 5,000 people. Meanwhile, weddings, funerals and faith services will also move to 75 per cent capacity.

Informal gatherings indoors will remain at 25 people, but increase to 50 outdoors.

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Masking will still be required in indoor public spaces, but as of March 7, people can remove their masks to eat while seated at concerts, movies and sporting events.

As well during Phase 2, people who test positive for COVID-19 will still have to self-isolate but they will no longer be required to notify close contacts outside their own household.

That phase is scheduled to last two weeks, and Phase 3 will begin on March 21.

At that point, there will be no more capacity limits and masking will no longer be required in public spaces but will still be recommended.

Public schools will keep their co-horting, masking and distancing plans until March Break, which begins March 14.

When students return to classes on March 21, there will be no restrictions or measures.

“There are a lot of people who are ready to get back to something that more closely resembles life before this pandemic. But for others the idea of having no restrictions, of going back to the way things were before comes with its own uncertainty and stress,” said Strang.

But he said restrictions were “never meant to be a permanent solution.”

“Now it is time to move away from two years of crisis response and approach living with COVID in a long term and manageable manner,” he said.

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“I truly believe that we are ready, that Nova Scotians are ready. We have the tools to manage COVID.”

Click to play video: 'Nova Scotia’s top doctor details plan to scrap all COVID-19 restrictions'
Nova Scotia’s top doctor details plan to scrap all COVID-19 restrictions

He acknowledged that while COVID-19 has now shown itself to be relatively mild among the vaccinated, there are people at particular high risk of serious disease and death: the unvaccinated, or the elderly living in group settings, for example.

“As we lift restrictions, our choices and actions become even more important. They will be the tools that we have to limit the spread of COVID-19 and protect those around us who are more vulnerable,” said Strang.

He said his team will continue to monitor the situation in the province, and admitted he has learned to “temper our expectations” because we are still living in a pandemic.

The highly-contagious Omicron variant, he pointed out, was unexpected last November and hit the province hard.

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“Omicron took us all by surprise and I think flattened us because we had expectations that couldn’t be met,” he said.

“Right now we’re on a good path but we will always make sure we’re looking for things and reacting as quickly and as appropriately as needed.”

Click to play video: 'Optimism about loosening of COVID-19 restrictions in Nova Scotia'
Optimism about loosening of COVID-19 restrictions in Nova Scotia

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