Nova Scotia is moving towards a new era of living with COVID.
Premier Tim Houston and Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Robert Strang announced in Wednesday’s COVID briefing that the province aims to lift all COVID-19 restrictions by mid-April, depending on epidemiology.
The announcement comes on the same day the province reported that five more Nova Scotians had died due to COVID-19, the second-highest number of single day deaths of the Omicron wave.
On Feb. 14, Nova Scotia will enter phase one, which means events can be held again, gathering limits will increase and all border restrictions for domestic travellers will be lifted.
In phase two, gathering limits will increase further and in phase three, all gathering restrictions will be lifted along with physical distancing requirements. Each phase will last about a month and moving to the next phase will depend on epidemiology.
Strang was quick to point out during the briefing that the reopening plan was not influenced by the protests taking place in Ottawa and across the country.
“This entire pandemic is built on our experience, and knowledge, of the protection provided by vaccines. This is why we’re in a position to start to ease restrictions,” said Strang.
During the briefing, Houston also announced that the province will increase pay for continuing care assistants (CCAs) in Nova Scotia as it looks to address what Houston described as an underfunded health care system.
Nova Scotia is investing roughly $65 million into health authorities, long-term care and home care. Houston said in the briefing that CCAs can expect their pay to increase 20 to 25 per cent, effective Thursday.
“We’re doing everything we can to fix the system, and we’ve heard from CCAs and unions time and again that we can’t do this until we address wages for CCAs, which I was shocked to hear were the lowest in the country,” said the premier in a news release.
This means CCAs will see an annual increase of nearly $9,000 per year, making them the highest paid in Atlantic Canada.
The increase in pay only applies to Nova Scotia CCAs working in publicly funded facilities. Houston noted that the large majority of CCAs in Nova Scotia work in these facilities.
The province announced on Wednesday there were eight new hospital admissions and four admissions. Among the 2,718 tests administered, 365 lab-confirmed new cases were recorded.
The province also announced a new outbreak of six staff members at Seaview Manor in Glace Bay.
Phase one of the reopening plan will see the easing of the following restrictions beginning Monday. Click here to see the province’s full announcement on the reopening plan.
- all border restrictions for domestic travellers entering Nova Scotia will be lifted; there will be no isolation requirements or Nova Scotia Safe Check-in form
- international travellers will continue to follow federal rules.
- the informal gathering limit indoors and outdoors will be 25 people from the same household or close social group; physical distance and proof of full vaccination are not required; masks are not required except in indoor public places
- the formal gathering limit for gatherings and events hosted by a recognized business or organization will be 50 per cent of capacity indoors and outdoors
- examples of formal gatherings include festivals, special events, social gatherings, regular faith services, wedding ceremonies, funeral ceremonies and associated visitation, receptions, meetings, training, and spectators at sports events, performances and movie theatres.
Sports, Arts and Culture
- professional and amateur sports participants (like players, coaches and referees) and arts and culture participants (like actors, performers and directors) are limited to 60 indoors and outdoors
- they can have practices, training, regular league games, rehearsals and performances; tournaments are not allowed
- physical distance is not required; masks are recommended when possible indoors and outdoors
- spectators are allowed following the formal gathering limit.
Faith Services, Weddings and Funerals
- regular faith services, weddings, funerals and associated receptions and visitation hosted by a recognized business or organization follow the formal gathering limit
- performers follow limits for arts and culture participants and masks are recommended for choirs; congregational singing is allowed, but masks are required
- proof of full vaccination remains in place for weddings, funerals and associated receptions and visitation
- there is an exception – funerals with up to 25 people without proof of full vaccination are permitted, but masks and physical distance are required.
Fitness, Recreation and Leisure
- fitness, recreation and leisure businesses and organizations can operate at 75 per cent capacity
- these limits apply to fitness facilities like gyms, yoga studios, pools and arenas; to recreation and leisure activities like dance and music lessons, indoor play places, arcades, shooting ranges, dog training; and to museums and libraries
- personal training is allowed with as much physical distance as possible
- day camps and before and after school programs can operate with groups of up to 30 campers, staff and volunteers.
- retail businesses and malls can operate at the maximum capacity possible with physical distance and masks
- personal services like hair salons can resume offering services that require removing masks; they can already operate at the maximum capacity possible with physical distance
- food establishments and liquor-licensed establishments can operate at 75 per cent capacity; they must have physical distance between tables and there is a limit of 25 people per table; they must stop dine-in service by midnight and close by 1 a.m.; takeout, drive-thru and delivery can operate later; performers follow the limits for arts and culture participants.
- enhanced public measures, such as classroom cohorts and not allowing non-essential visitors, will remain in effect in all schools
- singing and use of wind instruments can resume
- schools will follow the community guidelines on sports, arts and culture, but spectators will only be permitted after school hours.
- residents can have any two visitors at a time – they no longer need to be the same two visitors
- visitors must still wear masks and be fully vaccinated, except for end-of-life visits
- even if they are fully vaccinated, residents can only leave the facility for medical appointments or for a drive in a facility or visitor’s vehicle with no stops and no contact with other people outside the facility
- only residents who are eligible and have had a booster dose can access service providers for recreational activities and personal services like hairstyling
- facilities may continue to have residents in consistent groups for dining and activities.