Nova Scotia lifts some restrictions in Halifax area due to low COVID-19 case numbers
HALIFAX -- Nova Scotia announced that some of the tighter restrictions throughout the Halifax Regional Municipality and neighbouring communities announced last week are being lifted on Friday.
"We're not as concerned about having cases with no known cause, and so Dr. Strang was comfortable, public health brought forth a recommendation that we would relax those and I'm happy that we're able to do that," said N.S. Premier Iain Rankin.
On Feb. 26, the province announced new restrictions surrounding restaurant hours, sport competitions, culture performances and non-essential travel. The restrictions were originally scheduled to be in effect until at least March 26, but public health says low case numbers allow them to ease those restrictions three weeks early.
The announcement comes after a week of record-test numbers and low daily case counts. Nova Scotia has completed 27,342 COVID-19 tests in the last five days, with 11 positive infections identified.
"Last week we were worried about increased case numbers in Halifax but what we are seeing this week warrants lifting some restrictions early," said Rankin.
Effective Friday at 8 a.m., the following activities will be allowed:
- travel in and out of HRM and surrounding municipalities
- participants and officials in performing arts and sports (recreational, amateur and professional) can gather in groups of up to 60 people without social distancing for rehearsals, performances, practices and regular competitive schedule
- spectators at performing arts and sports will be allowed as long as the host facilities have a gathering plan
- the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development will reopen public school gyms for after-school use on March 6
- restaurants and bars will return to previous dine-in service requirements, with service stopped by 10 p.m. and close by 11 p.m.
- weddings and funeral in a faith facility or funeral homes can have 150 people outdoors or 50 per cent of capacity to a maximum of 100 indoors. Receptions and visitations continue to be not permitted in HRM and surrounding municipalities
"I know that restrictions can have a significant impact on businesses but safety is always the first priority, and I want to thank Nova Scotians for following public health advice as that has allowed us to ease them earlier. Thank you for doing your part to keep yourself, your family and your communities safe," said Rankin.
Some of the restrictions still remain in place, including ones surrounding long-term care facilities. Residents in long-term care homes are still only allowed to have visits from their two designated caregivers and can only leave the facility for medical appointments or for a drive with a designated caregiver. This restriction remains in effect until at least March 27 for HRM up to and including Porters Lake, as well as the communities of Enfield, Elmsdale, Lantz, Mount Uniacke and Hubbards.
"Thank you to all the Nova Scotians who turned out for testing over the past week," said Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health. "These record numbers helped give us a bigger picture of the virus in HRM and elsewhere in the province. It was critical to this decision."
According to the release from the province, Rankin and Strang, will address the easing of restrictions in more detail on Friday during their COVID-19 news conference.
EASING OF RESTRICTIONS WELCOME NEWS FOR NOVA SCOTIANS
Many businesses throughout the area that were impacted by the tightened restrictions say they're pleased with the province's announcement.
Some restaurant employees say the extra hour they're allowed to stay open can make a big difference when it comes to their income.
"An hour doesn't seem like a lot to a lot of people, but when you spread that across a week and maybe a couple of servers a night, it goes a long way to paying their bills," said Heather Quinn, a restaurant manager in Dartmouth, N.S.
The Halifax Mooseheads are also benefiting from the easing of restrictions. The league says home games will resume March 9 with fans in the stands and public health protocols in place.
"We can get back to playing games. The team has been practicing all week, which certainly we feel fortunate to do, but there's no replicating a game, so they want to get back to playing games," said Brian Urquhart, the president of the Halifax Mooseheads.
Thursday’s release was also welcome news for Nova Scotians looking to travel in and out of HRM and surrounding municipalities.
"I live in Yarmouth County, my nephew lives in Dartmouth, he was supposed to come down last March Break but couldn't because of COVID," said Ashley Armshaw, a resident in Yarmouth. "This year I look forward to seeing him."
"I do a lot of work with seniors to help with winter home heating, so at least now I'll be able to go check on them and make sure they're okay," said Robert Richardson, a resident of Elmsdale, N.S.
The Halifax Chamber of Commerce says the province's announcement on Thursday is good news for all businesses in the municipality.