Gyms closed, no in-person dining as tough restrictions come into effect in Halifax area
Argyle Street is seen in Halifax's bar district in this file photo.
HALIFAX -- Starting Thursday, most Halifax and Hants County residents won’t be able to dine at their favourite restaurant or work out at the gym, and they could see lineups at their local grocery store.
At 12:01 a.m., the Nova Scotia government implemented sweeping measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The measures will see the end of in-person dining at restaurants, while public libraries, museums, gyms, yoga studios and casinos will close in parts of Halifax and Hants County.
On Thursday, the province reported 114 active cases of the novel coronavirus, with most cases confirmed among people between the ages of 18 and 35 in the Central Zone.
After months of low case numbers, Nova Scotia has seen a spike in cases this month, with 148 cases of COVID-19 recorded since Nov. 1.
Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang recently confirmed there is community spread in the Halifax area, and Nova Scotia Health has issued a number of advisories this month, warning of potential exposures at dozens of locations in the region -- mostly restaurants and some gyms.
As a result, the province has introduced the tough restrictions in an attempt to curb the rise in COVID-19 infections.
"New restrictions have come into effect today in much of Halifax Regional Municipality and parts of Hants County to help us to slow the spread of COVID-19," said Premier Stephen McNeil in a news release.
"Please make yourself familiar with the new restrictions. We all have a responsibility to follow public health measures and keep each other safe."
Patrick Sullivan, CEO of the Halifax Chamber of Commerce, believes the province has struck a good balance with the latest lockdown.
“I think we’re definitely concerned some businesses may not be able to survive a second lockdown,” said Sullivan. “However, if we can get through this quickly, if everyone jumps on board and we have the massive testing that we seem to be having now, and if people slow down their social activities, hopefully we can get out of this relatively unscathed.”
HOW WILL THE RESTRICTIONS AFFECT ME?
As of 12:01 a.m. Thursday, the following measures will apply for two weeks in the western and central Halifax areas, which the province defines as HRM from Hubbards to, and including, Porters Lake and communities up to Elmsdale and Mount Uniacke in Hants County:
- The gathering limit in public is five, or up to the number of members of an immediate family in a household.
- Face masks must be worn in common areas of multi-unit residential buildings, such as apartment buildings and condos.
- Restaurants and licensed establishments are closed for in-person dining. They may still provide takeout and delivery.
- Retail stores must restrict shoppers and staff to 25 per cent or less of allowable capacity.
- Wineries, breweries and distilleries cannot hold tastings or in-person dining and must follow retail rules in their stores. Delivery and curbside pickup are allowed.
- Organized sports, recreational, athletic, arts and cultural activities and faith-based activities are paused.
- Profit and non-profit fitness and recreational facilities are closed.
- Libraries and museums are closed. This includes the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.
- The casino and First Nations gaming establishments are closed.
- Stronger enforcement of illegal gatherings. Each person who attends an illegal gathering could be fined $1,000.
The restrictions will continue for two weeks until midnight Dec. 9, but they could be extended.
Staff, volunteers and designated caregivers at long-term care facilities in HRM will undergo voluntary, bi-weekly testing, starting Friday.
Schools, after-school programs and childcare will remain open. Certain personal service businesses, such as hairstylists, estheticians and nail salons, in western and central HRM can continue, except for procedures that cannot be done while a patron is wearing a mask.
NEW RESTRICTIONS ACROSS NOVA SCOTIA
As of 12:01 a.m. Thursday, the following new restrictions apply across Nova Scotia, in all zones:
- No visitors, except for volunteers and designated caregivers, will be allowed in long-term care facilities, adult residential centres and regional rehabilitation centres licensed by the Department of Community Services.
- Sports teams are restricted to local or regional play only.
Nova Scotians are being urged to avoid non-essential travel in and out of the western and central Halifax Regional Municipality.
They are also being asked to avoid travelling to other Atlantic provinces for non-essential reasons.
PROVINCE OFFERS GRANT PROGRAM TO SUPPORT BUSINESSES
The province is offering a one-time grant of up to $5,000 to support businesses in HRM and Hants County that have been ordered to close under the new restrictions.
The grant will support small, independently owned dine-in restaurants, bars, and fitness and leisure establishments affected by the new measures.
“I don’t think it’s going to be the solution that’s going to have people feeling easy, but it will certainly cover some of their overhead during these next couple weeks,” said Nova Scotia Business Minister Geoff MacLellan.
Businesses must be in operation as of March 15, 2020 and have total annual sales of between $25,000 and $300,000
Eligible businesses will receive a one-time grant of 15 per cent of their average monthly gross revenues for April 2019, or from February 2020 if it is a new business, up to a maximum of $5,000.
Businesses must experience a revenue decrease of 30 per cent or more in November as a result of the public health order or expect at least a 30 per cent decrease in revenues in December 2020 resulting from the new measures put in place this week.
The grant can be used for any operational expense such as wages, supplies and other costs.
This program is funded through the Nova Scotia COVID-19 Response Council with the program funds of $50 million announced in March.
The application process will open in the coming weeks.