HALIFAX -- Most Nova Scotia businesses -- including restaurants, gyms and spas -- that were forced to close at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March will be allowed to reopen on June 5.

“We believe that we have found a balance between public safety and restarting our economy,” said Premier Stephen McNeil during a news conference in Halifax Wednesday afternoon.

“We are still moving slowly, but this is a good first step.”

McNeil said public health will be monitoring the reopening closely and widespread testing for COVID-19 will continue.

“If there are any signs of a problem, we will be on it,” said the premier.

He noted that while many business owners will be excited to reopen, others may not feel comfortable yet, and they can keep their doors closed until they do.

“If you’re not ready, you do not have to open on June 5,” said McNeil. “Go at your own pace and safety should be paramount.”


Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang has been working with businesses and associations as they develop plans to ensure they can reopen safely.

“I’ve been impressed with the comprehensive plans that I’ve seen so far and the thinking that’s gone into those plans,” said Strang.

“What those show me, those sectors are taking the health of both their staff and the health of Nova Scotians very seriously and it gives me confidence that they can reopen while mitigating the risks of COVID-19.”

Businesses must follow the public health protocols in the plan that are tailored to their sector, including rules around physical distancing, increased cleaning, and other protective measures for staff and customers.

“We’re working with those businesses to make details of their protocols available for the public to see,” said Strang.

“These rules, important rules about numbers and distancing, are critical to controlling COVID-19 and are here to stay for a significant length of time.”

The following businesses can reopen on June 5 if they are ready and choose to do so:

  • Restaurants for dine-in, takeout and delivery
  • Bars, wineries, distilleries and taprooms
  • Personal services, such as hair salons, barber shops, spas, nail salons and body-art establishments
  • Fitness facilities, such as gyms, yoga studios and climbing facilities

However, lounges are still not permitted to reopen at this time.

Strang said restaurants will be allowed to open to a maximum of 50 per cent capacity, with a maximum of five people per table.

“If you go to a restaurant with somebody who is not in your household or household bubble, you actually have to sit down so you’re maintaining social distancing,” he explained.

Strang said businesses will need to find a way to respect the rules around physical distancing. If a business is too small to ensure customers can maintain a distance of two metres, then only five people can be allowed inside.

“Our new normal does mean modifications for all of us and how we live, work and play,” he said.

“We ask all Nova Scotians to understand and respect the new normal.”

Health providers

The following health providers can also reopen on June 5, provided they follow the proper protocols laid out in their colleges’ and associations’ plans, as approved by public health.

  • Dentistry and other self-regulated professionals, such as optometry, chiropractic and physiotherapy
  • Unregulated health professions, such as massage therapy, podiatry and naturopathy.

Veterinarians can also reopen on June 5.

Strang noted some sectors have yet to submit proposals for reopening and is asking them to do so as soon as possible.

“We’ll turn those around as quickly as we can once we get them,” he said.

Small Business Reopening and Support Grant

The province also announced a program to help businesses and sectors forced to close under the public health.

Eligible businesses, non-profits, charities and social enterprises will be able to access the new Small Business Reopening and Support Grant -- a $25-million fund that will provide grants to help them open safely and $1,500 business continuity vouchers for advice and support to become more resilient in the coming months.

Applications will begin June 1.

Child care

The province says public health is still working with the child-care sector on a reopening plan, with a goal of reopening on June 15.

The province says the reopening date will be confirmed and shared with Nova Scotians once the plan is fully approved.

“We had hoped that this would be June 8, but now it looks more like June 15,” said McNeil.  “Our primary focus though will always be on the safety of our children and we are not going to rush it.”

Public health protocols still in place

While businesses may be reopening, the public health directives around physical distancing and gathering limits remain in place.

Nova Scotians are still required to keep two metres apart from those not in their immediate household, or "bubble" household, and not gather in groups of more than five.

“Settings that bring lots of people together, especially in social kind of environments, carry their own unique risk and we have to be very careful in that area,” said Strang.

McNeil said he will release more information about the reopening of Nova Scotia’s economy and social gatherings on Friday.

As for COVID-19 cases, the province announced one new case Wednesday, bringing the total number of cases in Nova Scotia to 1,053.