HALIFAX -- Nova Scotia's top doctor says the province could remove more restrictions and move to Phase 5 of its reopening as early as September, but only if the province hits a crucial vaccination target.

"We need at least 75 per cent of the population to be fully vaccinated," Dr. Robert Strang said during a news conference in Halifax on Thursday afternoon. "Our best defense against COVID and the way we can live as openly as possible as we move into this endemic phase, is to have everyone who can, get fully vaccinated."

Strang said 66 per cent of people living in Nova Scotia have had two doses. Yukon and Northwest Territories have higher percentages, but Nova Scotia has the highest rate of any province in Canada.

"We are still not where we need to be," Strang said. "That's important that we do not lose momentum now, we are so close. If everyone who is currently booked for a second dose takes their vaccine, we will have about 76 per cent of the population vaccinated."

Strang said, however, that many of those appointments are for September and October, and he encouraged people to re-book their appointment and move it up into August if possible.

"So, I need to be blunt, whether we have restrictions or not in September, is fully in the hands of the Nova Scotians who currently have an appointment booked, but have not yet moved it up into August," Strang said.

He added that there is more than enough vaccine in the province to vaccinate everyone who is eligible right now.

Strang says about 35,000 Nova Scotians need to rebook their appointments to hit the 75 per cent goal. After the middle of August, pharmacies will become the main provider of vaccines.


Nova Scotia Public health confirmed there are four new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday.

All of the new cases are in the Central Zone and are related to travel. There are 15 active cases in the province and one person is in intensive care.

Strang says about 40 per cent of cases in Nova Scotia are travel related and Public Health is carefully watching the increasing number of cases in the Moncton area.

Strang says no final decisions have been made, but officials are looking at possibly maintaining some border restrictions when Nova Scotia moves into Phase 5.

"The fourth wave of Delta variant is happening in other provinces," Strang said. "We need to continue to take it seriously."

Strang said because the Delta variant is so contagious, it's important to make sure the 75 per cent immunization target is hit before restrictions get relaxed.

"We are not going to take that risk," Strang said.

Nova Scotia has said that it will not make COVID-19 vaccination mandatory, but Strang reasoned with those who can be vaccinated but are refusing to.

"If nothing else, the world will be smaller for those who are not vaccinated as many countries and businesses are starting to require full vaccination," Strang said. "You're also putting yourself at risk."

Strang says a return to school plan will be made public in the coming weeks.