HALIFAX -- With Atlantic Canada's worst COVID-19 outbreak showing no signs of letting up, Nova Scotia's premier warned Thursday he might impose tougher restrictions on travel to reduce the rapid spread of the deadly virus.

Premier Iain Rankin told a virtual news conference he has grown frustrated with residents and visitors who aren't taking the pandemic seriously, despite the fact the number of active cases has jumped from 79 two weeks ago to more than 1,200 on Wednesday.

"I don't know what more I could say to Nova Scotians to make sure they take this issue seriously," he said after a cabinet meeting.

"If public health (officials) have other restrictions that they think will help, I won't hesitate to put them in."

Rankin said the restrictions imposed last week when the province went into a two-week lockdown were harsher than the measures taken during the first wave of the pandemic last year.

On April 27, the province ordered the closure of schools, malls, gyms, bars, restaurants and most retail stores -- and it closed its borders to all non-essential travel.

Rankin also doubled the maximum fine for those caught violating the province's public health rules, including a ban on travel between municipalities. "People need to co-operate for those restrictions to work," the premier said, adding that the coming weekend could prove to be a turning point for the province.

"I know that Mother's Day is this Sunday, and I know that's going to be difficult. But people, please stay home. Use your virtual apps to say hello, or your phones."

Police in two Nova Scotia communities confirmed Thursday they had laid charges in connection with COVID-19 restrictions.

In New Glasgow, N.S., police said a 32-year-old driver on his way to New Brunswick was charged under the Emergency Management Act for travelling for non-essential business and for leaving his home municipality.

And in Cape Breton, police charged a 56-year-old New Waterford, N.S., man Wednesday for violating a provision of the Health Protection Act that says anyone arriving from outside Nova Scotia, P.E.I. or Newfoundland and Labrador must self-isolate for 14 days.

He was handed a $2,000 fine.

Asked if the Nova Scotia outbreak could be linked to the province's decision last month to loosen restrictions, Rankin said that wasn't the case. The premier said the sudden surge in cases was the direct result of people coming to the province from outside Atlantic Canada and ignoring the 14-day isolation requirements.

"I can't help it if people don't listen to the 14-day isolation, which is why we went further this time, and we actually closed the borders down.

"We're going to continue to turn people away unless they have an essential reason to come here."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 6, 2021.