HALIFAX -- Prince Edward Island will allow limited visitation to long-term care facilities in the province beginning Monday, as the province moves into phase three of its reopening plan.

“This has been especially difficult for those in long-term care, as well as their families and loved ones. These steps are so needed and I could not be happier to see this process begin on Monday,” said Premier Dennis King during a news conference on Thursday.

Starting on Monday, long-term care facilities will have a process to start allowing visitation of family and friends for residents.

Two designated visitors per resident will be allowed to schedule visits by appointment. The visits will be limited to designated outdoor spaces to start.

“All visitors will be screened before visiting and anyone who has symptoms will have to postpone their visit," said Marion Dowling, Prince Edward Island’s chief of nursing. "All visitors will be maintaining physical distancing when at all possible. We recognize some of our residents may have difficulty maintaining physical distancing, in which case, a non-medical mask or face shield will be worn by the visitors." 

Dowling says residents of long-term care facilities will also be permitted more outdoor time and more interaction with other residents of the home, while still practising physical distancing. 

Phase three to begin Monday

The third phase of P.E.I.'s reopening plan will begin Monday.

Phase three will allow the reopening of additional businesses such as restaurants and patios, child-care centres and day camps, gyms and fitness centres, nail salons and spas, tattoo and piercing studios, restaurants, campgrounds, hospitality homes, inns and bed and breakfasts, provided they have an operation plan in place.

“Businesses, services and organizations will have to have an operation plan in place. They will need to ensure physical distancing and screening, cleaning and hand-washing processes are in place,” said P.E.I. Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison.

Phase three of the 'Renew P.E.I. together' plan was originally scheduled to begin on June 12, but the province decided to move it up to June 1 after several weeks of no cases of COVID-19. 

Restaurants will be limited to a maximum indoor seating capacity of 50 patrons, but Morrison says that number will likely be lower for many restaurants in order to maintain physical distancing.

There will be maximum of six customers per table, and no buffet-style serving or sharing of utensils will be allowed.

Sports and social gatherings

Phase three also allows gatherings of no more than 15 people indoors and 20 people outdoors, including religious gatherings, and organized recreation activities including outdoor sports, day camps, swimming pools, hot tubs and outdoor spaces, bowling alleys, gym and fitness facilities, yoga and pilates studios, arenas and wellness centres, art galleries, libraries, youth and community centres.

Morrison clarified that physical activities and team sports are classified into three groups. All sports will need to be limited to 15 people indoors or 20 people outdoors, including all players, spectators, staff and volunteers

Low potential sports including tennis, gymnastics, curling and solo sports are permitted. 

Moderate potential sports like baseball and volleyball will be permitted, providing operation plans are provided to ensure minimal contact and less than 15 people indoors, or 20 people outdoors.

High potential sports such as basketball, soccer, football, hockey, will need to have modifications to minimize physical contact. 

Full-contact sports like martial arts, boxing, wrestling, tackle football and rugby, will not be permitted at this time.

Morrison also asked people to limit activities that involve singing, including choirs and playing brass or wind instruments, as there is some evidence that COVID-19 can spread through group musical activities.

“We have worked really hard to get here, and we have gotten here by following the directives of the public health office. As we begin to enjoy more of our island, let's not forget the things that got us here and let's continue to practise the things that we’ve learned over these past 10 weeks," said King.

The province has also renewed its state of emergency until at least June 14 to ensure measures and directives needed to keep residents safe.

Applications for seasonal residents to open Monday

June 1 will also see the opening of P.E.I.'s application process for seasonal residents -- a topic that has been controversial since it was announced on May 20.

Premier King provided more details about the application process on Thursday.

“This is a population that is defined and known to our province. They would be more likely to have a support system of family and friends in place to help assist them with their isolation plans, and they are all able to return to their seasonal homes in P.E.I. where they can quarantine for 14 days.”

The province says each submission will be put through a risk assessment, including evaluating the location where the residents are travelling from and the state of COVID-19 infection in that area, as well as how the individuals will be travelling to the province, their plans for self-isolation and their plan for supports to ensure self-isolation.

King expects seasonal residents could begin arriving on June 15. All residents will be directed to self-isolate for 14 days, and will be tested before the completion of their 14-day self-isolation.

“We will only be processing 500 applications per week, and that is to make sure we are able to do the operation isolation calls and testing,” says Morrison.

The first phase will allow visitors from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland, and later provinces like Manitoba, British Columbia. The third phase will involve provinces with higher COVID-19 infection numbers, such as Quebec and Ontario.

“Thousands of islanders have come home in the past few months and have successfully completed their isolation. This will be even more diligent. We’ve had extensive screening at our points of entry, and this will continue for all of us,” said Morrison.

P.E.I. reports no new cases for 30th consecutive day

Prince Edward Island reported no new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday. All 27 of the province's confirmed cases have recovered from the virus.

This marks P.E.I.'s 30th consecutive day with no new cases, with the last positive case reported on April 28.

Dr. Heather Morrison says the province has tested over 1,000 people this week and 6,178 people total.

The individuals with confirmed cases on the island range in age from 20 to 79. Of the 27 positive cases, 11 are women, and 16 are men.

All confirmed cases of COVID-19 in P.E.I. were connected to travel.