HALIFAX -- Premier Stephen McNeil announced more restrictions and closures throughout Nova Scotia in a press conference Wednesday afternoon, including visitor restrictions in hospitals.

McNeil said all the measures being taken are to try and halt the spread of COVID-19.

Hospital Visitation Restrictions

In addition to reducing and suspending some services, the IWK Health Centre implemented a 'No Visitors' policy on Wednesday. This means no general visitors will be permitted to enter the facility, however, one support person is permitted for pediatric patients, and for women in labour.

The Nova Scotia Health Authority also says no visitors are permitted in any hospitals. The only exceptions are for compassionate and supportive care, such as patients at end-of-life.

Healthcare Support

Nova Scotia Health Minister Randy Delorey said, with more cases expected in the future, they are working with partners to expand the available workforce for both doctors and nurses.

"This includes working with the College of Physicians and Surgeons to waive fees for retired doctors to be re-licensed to make it faster for them to support our healthcare system," said Delorey. 

"We are also working to bring in more nurses, including more opportunities for casuals, recent graduates, and retirees. For example, 811 is working to expand services and, to date, 26 RNs have completed their training to support this work … 811 is also adding 11 trained ER assessors with 17 more in the training cue."

Delorey said any physicians with the technology to provide care via telephone or videoconferencing can begin using it immediately.

He also said, in order to manage unnecessary demand on primary care providers, and to support the public health directive to self-isolate, employers are no longer allowed to require any sick notes from employees.

Pharmacists can also now renew prescriptions for most medications and government will cover the assessment fees.

Delorey said all of the above healthcare changes are effective until the end of June, where they will then be re-evaluated.

Mandatory Closures

Premier Stephen McNeil said that it's important to do whatever it takes to keep our loved ones and fellow Nova Scotians safe. For that reason, he announced many closures throughout the province.

"Effective midnight Thursday, personal services, fitness establishments, such as hair salons, barber shops, spas, nail salons, body-art establishments, and gyms must shut down," said McNeil. "We are actively looking at our regulated health professions, such as dentists, physiotherapists, and others and we will have more information on that in the days to come."

McNeil also added all service providers funded through the Department of Community Services disability support program will be closed to both participants and the public. This includes Social Enterprise, day programs, and supported employment programs for adults with diverse abilities.

Layers of Self-isolation

Premier Stephen McNeil and Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health, Dr. Robert Strang, also explained the level of difference between the importance of self-isolation, depending on your diagnosis.

"People who have travelled and have been asked to self-isolate, it doesn’t mean that they have to stay away in their home. If you're on self-isolation because of travel, and you're feeling well and don't have symptoms, you can still take your dog for a walk, go for a bike ride, take your kids to the park," explained Strang. "What's really important is that people are separating from each other, but you don’t have to stay 24 hours-a-day behind your door in your home."

Strang says, once a case is determined, they work to identify who that person has been in close contact with. These cases need to be more cautious in regards to social-distancing.

"It's even more important that they are more vigilant about separating from others, and need to stay more in their home," said Strang.

Anyone who is experiencing symptoms waiting for test results should be stricter on social-distancing rules.

"Those people need strict home isolation. So, they should not be out and about," said Strang. "Even when they are in their home, it's important that, as much as possible, they separate from other people within their home."