N.S. announces delay to Phase 5 reopening due to epidemiology

Dr. Robert Strang and Health and Wellness Minister Michelle Thompson at the Sept. 14 COVID-19 briefing. (Communications N.S. Photo)

HALIFAX: Nova Scotia announced Sept. 14 that due to the current epidemiology in the province and Atlantic region, the Phase 5 re-opening in the province will be delayed until Oct. 4, when the proof of full vaccination policy begins for certain events and activities.

Phase 5 was expected to start today, Wednesday, Sept. 15.

“We had hoped to be in a position to start Phase 5 this week, but the epidemiology is changing quickly, and we need to take a cautious approach,” said Premier Tim Houston. “All our current restrictions will remain in place until 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.”

There are certain events taking place at several large arts and entertainment facilities before Oct. 4 for which tickets have already been sold. These events can proceed without following the gathering limit as long as the facility has a policy requiring spectators to be fully vaccinated and wear masks.

“We understand it’s challenging for everyone, especially businesses, to change their plans when things don’t go as we expect. However, this delay is necessary to protect Nova Scotians,” said Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health. “In just over two weeks, our proof of full vaccination policy will replace the need for gathering limits through the fall. Anyone who is not yet fully vaccinated should make an appointment as soon as possible.

“Vaccination is our best defense against COVID-19.”

Starting Oct. 4, people who are 12 and older will need to provide proof of full vaccination to participate in most events and activities that bring groups of people together. 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.

Proof of vaccination will not be required under the provincewide policy for employees of businesses and organizations that offer these 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. Any policies should take legal and ethical implications into consideration.

People who are not fully vaccinated need to be able to access essential services.

Quick Facts:
— an exception policy for people who cannot get vaccinated because of a valid medical or behavioural reason is being developed
— children who turned 12 between Jan. 1 and Oct. 4 this year will have until Dec. 31 to attend events and activities while they get vaccinated; children who turn 12 after Oct. 4 will have three months from their birthday.