HALIFAX -- Nova Scotia will be easing some public health restrictions around COVID-19 beginning Friday, including reopening of parks and trails, and allowing fishing and gardening.

"We know that getting outdoors for recreation is important for people's physical and mental health," said Premier Stephen McNeil. "That's why we are easing some restrictions, while still keeping the majority of our public health directives in place to continue fighting the virus. But I need to be clear: if we see an increase in positive cases or people not continuing to adhere to all the public health measures, the restrictions will return."

As of Friday, the following restrictions have been lifted, providing physical distancing rules of keeping two metres apart and not gathering in groups of more than five remain.

  • Provincial and municipal parks and trails in the province are allowed to reopen, although playground equipment will continue to be off limits.
  • Sportfishing will be allowed from shore or boat, but fishing derbies are not allowed.
  • People can attend boating, yacht or sailing clubs for the purpose of preparing boats for use.
  • Nova Scotians will be allowed to use and visit community gardens, and garden centres, nurseries and similar businesses can reopen.
  • Golf driving ranges may open, including those at golf clubs, but courses must remain closed. Golf clubs are allowed to perform necessary maintenance and preparations for opening.
  • People can use their cottages. This is restricted to one household unit at a time, and travel must be directly to the cottage and back. The province says travelling back and forth from cottages to primary residence is discouraged.
  • Provincial and private campgrounds remain closed but can perform necessary maintenance and prepare for opening. An exception is recreational vehicles parked year-round at private campgrounds, which can be used following the same rules as cottages.
  • Drive-in religious services are allowed, as long as people stay in their cars, parked two metres apart, and there are no interactions between people in cars and others.

Beaches in the province will remain closed for the time being, including beaches that are located inside provincial and municipal parks.

“Most people don’t have a beach in our community and would have to drive a fair distance to get to one, and we really don’t want people driving long-distance if they don’t need to,” said chief medical officer of health Dr. Robert Strang during Friday's news conference.

The province says they are developing a phased plan to further lift public health restrictions, and the timing of each phase will be determined by the result of the easing of restrictions. This is similar to New Brunswick and P.E.I., which have already begun easing public health restrictions.

"Our ability to open things up further - for example, beaches, golf courses and campgrounds -- depends on how each of us does with these adjustments, how well Nova Scotians comply and how the pandemic continues to impact people's health," said Strang. "We can't let our guards down. We need to continue to flatten the curve."

State of Emergency extended

Nova Scotia is extending the provincial state of emergency until at least Sunday, May 17.

In a news release issued Friday, the province announced they are extending the provincial state of emergency that was originally declared on March 22.