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‘A test for all of us’: Nova Scotia to ease some public gathering restrictions Monday

No new COVID-19 cases on Friday, 8 active cases in total

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caption Premier Stephen McNeil (left) and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang announce no new COVID-19 cases on Friday.
Screenshot from COVID-19 briefing on Feb. 5

While general gatherings — such as informal and household gatherings, or non-organized events — remain restricted to 10 people, the low numbers of new daily COVID-19 cases has allowed some restrictions in Nova Scotia to ease.

“This is a test for all of us,” Premier Stephen McNeil said at a news conference on Friday. “We’re keeping our cases down, but the moment we see a shift or a surge, a change in the number of cases, we will not hesitate to bring back restrictions.”

Effective Monday, gyms and retailers can operate at a 75 per cent capacity. Other recognized organizations and businesses can host up to 150 people outdoors, “or 50 per cent of the venue’s capacity to a maximum of 100 indoors.” This includes:

  • Meetings and training hosted by private businesses or organizations, clubs, provincial and municipal governments, first responders, and mental health and addictions support groups,
  • Festivals, sports and recreation events, weddings with receptions, funeral visitations, and     receptions,
  • Licensed and unlicensed establishments that host activities such as darts, bingo,
  • Faith gatherings.

Large facilities with pre-approved plans can host multiple groups of 100 that are kept separate with their own entrances, exits and washrooms. Halifax’s Scotiabank Centre, along with Centre 200 in Sydney, is approved to hold multiple groups of 150 people.

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Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health, said non-essential adults are not allowed to attend events held in school environments at this time, including spectators and audiences.

If a school is holding an event at an outside facility, such as a municipal or privately owned building, the spectators must follow the provincial gathering limit for that facility.

Keeping a low number of people inside public schools has been an important part of “keeping the schools safe,” Strang said.

There are eight active COVID-19 cases in the province, and no new cases announced on Friday. Two people are in the hospital, including one in the ICU.

McNeil to help new leader

Nova Scotia’s Liberal Party will be choosing a new leader this weekend at the 2021 Virtual Liberal Leadership Convention, making this McNeil’s last COVID-19 briefing as the premier.

Strang said that “we recognize the importance of the premier and myself being here, regularly communicating to Nova Scotians, and that it will continue through the transition period and then with the new premier.”

“I will remain the premier until they are sworn in,” McNeil said. “I will do whatever I can to support and work with Dr. Strang and the new leader to continue our province on the path we’ve been on for the last 11 months.”

Unless COVID-19 cases rise and cause the restrictions to tighten, they will be in effect until March 7. That’s one week longer than the usual incubation period that restrictions are in place for.

“We’re opening up a lot of gatherings, and we felt we need to wait that two incubation periods to really get a good sense of how Nova Scotians are responding,” Strang said.

Vaccines update

The province has administered 17,295 COVID-19 vaccinations as of Friday, with 4,681 people having received a second dose. Earlier this week, the province announced plans for community-based vaccination to launch in Halifax later this month before expanding to other parts of Nova Scotia in March.

The province completed 1,681 tests on Thursday, hardly surpassing 1,000 tests per day in the last week.

“I know that COVID-19 prevention fatigue is real,” Strang said. “But you cannot afford to relax or become complacent. This is a pandemic.”

Strang addressed the importance of regular asymptomatic testing to prevent the spread of the virus and encouraged Nova Scotians to make testing part of their routine.

Anyone who is experiencing one of the following symptoms should complete a self-assessment online, or by calling 811 to determine if they should be tested:

  • Fever
  • New or worsening cough

Anyone with two or more of the following symptoms should also be assessed:

  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Shortness of breath
  • Runny nose

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About the author

Brooklyn Connolly

Brooklyn is a journalist based in Halifax, N.S. She's passionate about all things health, policy, and education. Her work has been seen in the...

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