HALIFAX -- Starting Tuesday, patients and visitors will be required to wear a non-medical mask when entering hospitals and other health-care facilities in Nova Scotia.

“We take the health and safety of our patients, employees and physicians very seriously,” said Dr. Brendan Carr, the president and CEO of Nova Scotia Health. “Requiring people to wear masks adds another layer of protection that will help reduce transmission of COVID-19 and is consistent with evolving evidence and advice from public health experts.”

Dr. Krista Jangaard, the CEO of the IWK Health Centre, said the two organizations have been monitoring the situation closely and are constantly evolving in their response to COVID-19. 

“As we plan for a potential second wave, we want to ensure a consistent approach across all hospitals and health centres in the province,” she said.

The requirement does not apply to hospital inpatients, children under the age of two, or staff working in non-clinical areas, once they have arrived in their workspace where they can maintain physical distance from others.

Staff and physicians working in clinical areas are already required to wear a mask.

Even while wearing a mask, Nova Scotia Health says patients, visitors and essential support people should still maintain a physical distance of two metres from others, when possible.

“We must also stress that masks are not a replacement for physical distancing,” said Dr. Shelly McNeil, chief of infectious diseases for the Nova Scotia Health Authority’s central zone. “Physical distancing and good hand hygiene are the most effective ways to minimize the risk of spreading COVID-19 and must continue to be practiced while in our facilities.”

Visitors will continue to be screened upon arrival. Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms, or who is supposed to be self-isolating or needs to be tested for COVID-19, will not be allowed to enter.

Meanwhile, the Nova Scotia government announced Friday that drivers and passengers will be required to wear non-medical masks on public transportation, starting on July 24.