HALIFAX -- Tighter COVID-19 restrictions are now in effect in parts of Nova Scotia amid a steady rise in infections in the province and mounting worries about the spread of a more transmissible variant of the novel coronavirus.  

The new measures in Halifax and some neighbouring municipalities include measures closing restaurants and bars by 10 p.m. as well as a limit restricting visitors to long-term care homes to designated caregivers only.

All sporting games, competitions, tournaments and in-person performances have been banned, though sports practices and training or arts and culture rehearsals can continue with a cap of up to 25 people without spectators.

Nova Scotians are also being asked to avoid all non-essential travel within the province, especially to and from the Halifax area.

Provincial Chief medical officer Dr. Robert Strang says concerns about the spread of a variant first detected in the United Kingdom informed the province's decision to impose what he calls a "circuit breaker" in the Halifax region.

He says his main concern is cases with unknown sources and increased rates of socializing.

Health officials say the new restrictions should last at least a month and that more could be added if COVID-19 cases continue to rise.

The new measures cover areas of the Halifax Regional Municipality up to and including Porters Lake, as well as the communities of Enfield, Elmsdale, Lantz, Mount Uniacke and Hubbards.

The new rules took effect at 8 a.m. Saturday and will continue until March 26, with an extension possible.

Meanwhile, the province has changed rules for rotational workers as well. They will now be required to undergo three COVID-19 tests during their modified 14-day quarantine.

Irving Shipbuilding, one of the largest employer's in the province, temporarily suspended production at the Halifax shipyard for the day Friday after a member of its workforce tested positive for COVID-19.

The company is holding a pop-up testing site to test its employees this weekend.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 27, 2021.