Nova Scotia to take 'cautious approach' in final phase of reopening; mandates vaccines for health-care workers, teachers
Nova Scotia says it will move into the final phase of its reopening plan on Oct. 4 as planned but will proceed using a "cautious approach."
The province says while most restrictions will be lifted, some will be maintained.
Additionally, border restrictions will be implemented for people coming from Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador.
Aspects of Phase 5 include:
- masks will continue to be mandatory in indoor public places
- physical distancing and gathering limits for events hosted by a recognized business or organization will be lifted
- the informal gathering limits of 25 people indoors and 50 outdoors will remain in place
- proof of full vaccination will be required for non-essential events and activities
"The Delta variant has impacted our epidemiology. The fourth wave is taking its toll across the country and it’s now in Nova Scotia," Premier Tim Houston said.
"We can lift some restrictions with the added protection of the proof of full vaccine protocol and our high vaccination rates, but masking and limits for informal gatherings need to stay in place. We’re taking a cautious approach so we can keep moving forward, even in the midst of the fourth wave."
Starting at 12:01 a.m. on Oct. 4, proof of full vaccination will be required for people who are 12 and older to participate in non-essential events and activities such as going to restaurants, movies, sports events, theatre performances, social events and the gym.
Based on conversations with people in many sectors, some changes have been made to the list of places where proof of full vaccination will be required.
For example, proof of vaccination will not be required for general library access but will be required to participate in library programs that bring groups of people together.
It will be required for designated caregivers and visitors of residents in long-term care facilities, with limited exceptions. It will apply to dining in at fast-food establishments, but not to takeout, delivery, drive-thru or food courts.
Proof of vaccination will not be required under the provincewide protocol for employees of businesses and organizations that offer these events and activities, but it will be required for their volunteers.
MANDATORY VACCINES FOR HEALTH-CARE WORKERS
Nova Scotia will begin mandating vaccinations for health-care and long-term care workers, as well as paramedics and teachers.
Workers have until Nov. 30 to provide proof of full vaccinations. Those not fully vaccinated, meaning zero or one dose, must participate in an education plan.
If an employee isn't fully vaccinated by Nov. 30, they will be placed on unpaid administrative leave.
"Despite having a highly vaccinated population, the pandemic is still having deadly consequences in the fourth wave," Houston said.
"There have been three deaths in the last week alone and we need to do whatever we can to make sure other families don't have to grieve their loved ones. Too many Nova Scotians have chosen not to get vaccinated, and some of them work with Nova Scotians most at risk from COVID-19. It is time to get tough."
The new vaccine mandate applies to:
- Nova Scotia Health Authority and IWK Health Centre
- workers in long-term care facilities (licensed and unlicensed) and home-care agencies (publicly and privately funded)
- public school teachers, pre-primary and other school-based staff, regional and board office staff, and those providing services in schools, including cafeteria and school bus services
- Hearing and Speech Nova Scotia
- workers in residential facilities and day programs funded by the Department of Community Services Disability Support Program and adult day programs funded by Department of Seniors and Long-Term Care
- workers in Department of Community Services facilities and those providing placements for children and youth in the care of the Minister of Community Services (excluding foster family placements)
- paramedics, LifeFlight nurses and some other staff at EHS
- physicians and other service providers to the above organizations; for example hairdressers and contractors
"Our vaccination rate is not increasing as fast as we need, and we are seeing the impact of the fourth wave on those who are vaccinated and unvaccinated. There are thousands of appointments available for vaccination right now," Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health, said in a release.
NEW BORDER RESTRICTIONS
Beginning 8 a.m. on Oct. 4, everyone coming to Nova Scotia from other Canadian provinces and territories, including Newfoundland and Labrador and P.E.I., will need to complete the Nova Scotia Safe Check-in form.
Their isolation will be based on vaccination status and testing. People who were fully vaccinated at least 14 days before arriving do not have to isolate, but testing is recommended. People who are not fully vaccinated must isolate for at least seven days and get two negative test results in Nova Scotia to stop isolating after seven days. They must be lab-based tests, not rapid tests.
TAKE-HOME TESTS FOR CHILDREN
Families of children in pre-primary to Grade 6 in Nova Scotia’s public school system will begin to receive free COVID-19 rapid testing kits in an effort to protect unvaccinated children and their families.
The pilot program will see Nova Scotia provide 320,000 rapid tests to families and support early detection of COVID-19.
"We’ve heard from parents that they are concerned about their younger children who are not yet eligible to be vaccinated," Becky Druhan, minister of education and early childhood development, said in a release.
"These take-home tests are one way to provide families easier access to testing for children with symptoms and an added layer of protection on top of the core public health measures that exist in our schools."
In the next few weeks, schools will distribute the nose swab testing kits to families who want them. Each package will contain four take-home rapid COVID-19 tests with a set of instructions on how to complete the test.