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N.S. bars and restaurants not extending hours any time soon, says top doctor

Dr. Strang maintains that current guidelines match the COVID-19 epidemiology

3 min read
caption Despite low case counts, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang said that the province is not yet prepared to extend operating hours for bars and restaurants.
Darrell Roberts

Despite the low case count in Nova Scotia, the province’s top doctor said that he is not considering extending operating hours for bars and restaurants beyond 11 p.m.

Halifax restaurants and bars reopened on Jan. 4, and currently have to stop serving food and beverages by 10 p.m. and close by 11 p.m. A maximum of 10 people can sit at one table.

“We need to be extra careful about environments where people are together for [a] prolonged period of time, in close contact with each other, often not wearing a mask because they’re eating and drinking,” said Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang at Friday’s COVID-19 briefing.

“When you add alcohol and other impairing substances into the mix, people’s judgment wanes.”

On Friday, Nova Scotia reported no new cases of COVID-19 and nine active cases. One person is in intensive care because of the virus.

Strang said that epidemiology indicates that “later-night social events” are much higher risk.

He added that public-health officials may revisit the operating hours for bars and restaurants in a month or so, provided that case numbers remain low.

Vaccine delays

The province also announced a slowdown of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout in long-term care homes.

Strang announced that next week’s shipment of the Moderna vaccine is being reduced from 5,900 doses down to 3,000.

The federal government is reallocating some of Canada’s Moderna vaccine supply to northern territories. Strang said that the Moderna vaccine is being diverted to address “complexities and unique challenges” in Northern Canada.

The province anticipates a reduction in the March shipment of Moderna vaccines, but also expects a substantial increase in shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine—although Strang cautioned that the increase is not entirely confirmed.

“We don’t want to count our chickens before the eggs hatch,” said Strang.

Strang said the province is exploring the possibility of supplementing the reduction in the Moderna vaccine supply with the Pfizer vaccine, but since the Pfizer vaccine has stricter temperature requirements that makes it harder to roll out in long-term care homes.

Despite the reduction in Moderna vaccine and short-term delays in Pfizer vaccine, Strang said that the province is confident it will make up for those delays and still receive its 90-day supply.

“We fully expect we’re going to get all the vaccine we need to get and more,” said Strang.

Staying vigilant

As cases soar in Newfoundland and Labrador and virus variants increase in other provinces, Strang emphasized the need for Nova Scotians to continue following public health guidelines.

“Now is not the time that we can become complacent,” he said.

Newfoundland and Labrador reported a record 100 cases on Thursday and an additional 50 on Friday, with an active case count of 260. Many of these cases stemmed from high school sports tournaments and social gatherings.

In response to a question, Strang said that Nova Scotia has restrictions in place to prevent a similar outbreak. Currently, public health guidelines allow sports games, but not tournaments. Additionally, the province has mandated a two week isolation period for travellers from Newfoundland and Labrador.

Strang also pointed to rapid and asymptomatic testing as an essential part of the province’s response to COVID-19.

The province is currently asking anyone who travelled from Newfoundland and Labrador in the two weeks before Wednesday to get tested. Also, anyone in Nova Scotia who has had visitors from Newfoundland and Labrador in the two weeks prior to Wednesday is also being asked to get tested.

Need to get tested?

Anyone who has experienced one of the following symptoms in the last 48 hours should use the online self-assessment tool to book testing.

  • fever (i.e. chills/sweats)
  • or cough (new or worsening)

Public health officials also recommend anyone with two or more of the following symptoms to book testing:

  • sore throat
  • runny nose/nasal congestion
  • headache
  • shortness of breath/difficulty breathing

For those without symptoms, there are three pop-up rapid testing locations this weekend:

  • Saturday, Feb. 13 – Kentville Volunteer Fire Department auditorium, 463 Main St, Kentville from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Saturday, Feb. 13 – Halifax Convention Centre, Argyle St entrance from 3:30 to 9:30 p.m.
  • Sunday, Feb. 14 – Royal Canadian Legion Branch 20, 92 Mount St, Digby from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m

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About the author

Darrell Roberts

Darrell Roberts is a student journalist from St. John's. He enjoys reading and writing about the latest in culture and politics.

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