HALIFAX -- As Nova Scotia embarked on its "new normal" on Friday, opening a range of businesses including bars and restaurants, the province also announced an exemption to allow some public celebrations for high school graduations.

Dr. Robert Strang, the province's chief medical officer of health, announced Friday that he would allow community organizations, businesses or municipalities to hold celebrations to recognize graduates because of the loss of traditional graduation ceremonies.

The exemption will last from June 8 to June 30.

"I know how important graduation is to students and their families, and like many other things in our lives graduations have been disrupted this year due to COVID-19," said Strang.

He said all non-school based, community celebrations must be held by a recognized business, municipality or community organization such as a club, association or volunteer of faith-based group.

Local municipalities, police and fire departments as well as the provincial ambulance services must be informed and support the event. They will have to be drive-in events and anyone attending must arrive in a vehicle where the passengers are from a single household "bubble."

"Graduates can come out of their vehicle to do things like crossing a stage or taking part in a parade as long as a physical distance of two metres is maintained," said Strang.

Meanwhile, sectors of the economy that had been closed for nearly three months began the process of reopening on Friday as the province reported no new cases of COVID-19.

Under the province's reopening plan, dining rooms welcomed back customers, although most are required to operate at 50 per cent capacity to ensure proper physical distancing. Staff were required to wear personal protective equipment such as masks and gloves.

Hair salons, barber shops, gyms and yoga studios were also allowed to open, along with some health-care providers including dentistry offices that will initially see emergency and urgent cases.

"This has been a difficult time in our province, there's no question, but today feels like a new beginning," said Premier Stephen McNeil.

McNeil said while the province will monitor developments, the success of the reopening will come down to individual businesses and their patrons adhering to health protocols, adding that they would largely have to "police themselves."

"We are going to have to learn to live with COVID ... but we have to open up our province," he said.

Strang also addressed concerns about further planned public demonstrations against racism and police brutality over the weekend.

He said while both he and the premier support people's right to express themselves, the protests need to observe physical distancing to keep everyone healthy.

Strang also said that anyone participating should wear a non-medical mask.

"You have to protest in a manner that is safe and does not create a substantive risk of a reintroduction and spark of a COVID-19 outbreak," he said.

Nova Scotia had 1,058 cases of COVID-19 as of Friday. A total of 61 people have died from the infection, while 997 people have now recovered from their bout with the virus.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 5, 2020.