HALIFAX -- Health officials in Nova Scotia have decided to delay moving into Phase 5 of its COVID-19 reopening plan until at least Oct. 4.

In a live COVID-19 news conference on Tuesday, Health and Wellness Minister Michelle Thompson said due to current epidemiology in the province and the Atlantic region, it is not the time to move into the final stage.

"We've been successful using our multi-layer and very successful approach. The best way to protect yourself, your family and your community is to get vaccinated,” said Thompson.

In an news release on Tuesday, Premier Tim Houston said all current restrictions will remain in place until at least Oct. 4.

“By then, we hope to have improved epidemiology of the virus and we will have surpassed our 75 per cent vaccination target. Our proof of full vaccination policy will also be finalized and implemented for activities like going to restaurants, gyms, movies, performances and events. This will allow us to safely lift the gathering limit and other restrictions," said Houston in the release.

In an interview with CTV Atlantic's Steve Murphy on Tuesday, Strang also reiterated that every decision made in Nova Scotia related to the COVID-19 pandemic, including delaying Phase 5, is based on evolving epidemiology.

"There's going to be people happy with the decision we made and people who are not happy and… I listen to various groups and sectors to take their perspective into account but ultimately I work with my Public Health colleagues and then we give recommendations of what we think is necessary to keep Nova Scotians safe," said Strang.

The province's top doctor also spoke about events taking place at several large arts and entertainment facilities prior to Oct. 4 to which tickets have already been sold.

He says those events can proceed without following gathering limits, as long as the facility has a policy requiring spectators to be fully vaccinated and wearing masks.

As of Tuesday, 78.8 per cent of Nova Scotia's population had received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, while 72.7 per cent have been fully vaccinated.

To date, 1,471,980 vaccine have been administered in the province.

Health officials in Nova Scotia reported 66 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, along with 18 recoveries, increasing the total number of active cases in the province to 173.

RESTRICTION CHANGES ON OCT. 4

Beginning Oct. 4, individuals who are age 12 and older will be required to provide proof of full vaccination to participate in most events and activities that bring groups of people together.

Health officials say, while the policy is not yet final, it will apply to:

  • full-service restaurants where patrons sit at tables to be served, both indoors and on patios
  • liquor licensed establishments, casinos and other gaming establishments, both indoors and on patios
  • indoor and outdoor fitness and recreation facilities such as gyms, yoga studios, pools and arenas, as well as fitness classes
  • indoor and outdoor leisure facilities and businesses such as dance and music lessons, climbing facilities, escape rooms, pottery painting, indoor play places, arcades, shooting ranges, go-carts and outdoor adventure
  • indoor and outdoor festivals, special events, and arts and culture events and venues such as theatre performances, concerts and movie theatres, unless they are outdoor events held in public spaces with no specific entry point, such as Nocturne
  • participants and spectators for indoor and outdoor sports practices, games, competitions and tournaments
  • indoor and outdoor extracurricular school-based activities, including sports
  • bus, boat and walking tours
  • museums, public libraries and the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia
  • indoor and outdoor events and activities such as receptions, social events, conferences and training that are hosted by a recognized business or organization
  • indoor and outdoor wedding and funeral ceremonies, receptions and visitation that are hosted by a recognized business or organization

Public Health says proof of vaccination will not be required under the provincewide policy for employees of businesses and organizations that offer the above events and activities.

Proof of vaccination will also not be required for most places that don't facilitate formal gatherings, such as:

  • retail stores
  • financial institutions
  • food establishments that primarily offer fast food, takeout and delivery
  • professional services such as accountants and lawyers
  • personal services such as hair salons, barber shops, spas and body art
  • health-care services and health professions such as doctors' offices, dental care, massage therapy and physiotherapy
  • rental accommodations such as hotel rooms, cottages and campgrounds
  • faith services
  • school-based activities that take place during the school day, before and after school programs and school buses
  • business meetings and other activities where the general public is not present
  • places where government services are offered
  • food banks, shelters, Family Resource Centres and adult day programs for seniors or people with disabilities
  • informal gatherings at a private residence

"Businesses and organizations are encouraged to set their own vaccination policies," wrote the province in a release. "Any policies should take legal and ethical implications into consideration. People who are not fully vaccinated need to be able to access essential services."

CHILDREN WHO TURNED 12 BETWEEN JAN. 1 AND OCT. 4

Public health says children who turned 12 between Jan. 1 and Oct. 4 this year will have until Dec. 31 to attend events and activities in the province while they get vaccinated.

"Children who turn 12 after Oct. 4 will have three months from their birthday," read the release.