People in Newfoundland and Labrador can finally hit the dance floor again, travel more freely and attend larger gatherings as the province moves to Step 2 of its reopening plan.
The next step officially came into effect at 12:01 a.m. Sunday, 15 days ahead of schedule.
During Friday's COVID-19 briefing, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald said continued low case numbers and having more than half of the province's eligible population fully vaccinated allowed public health to speed up the move to Step 2.
Some of the biggest changes in Step 2 centre around restaurants and businesses, while also tweaking rules for travellers entering Newfoundland and Labrador.
Capacity restrictions at restaurants are no longer in place — except that physical distancing must still be maintained between customers and tables. Self-serve buffets are still prohibited.
It was a welcome sign for O'Reilly's Pub owner Brenda O'Reilly, who was able to reopen the bar's dance floor.
"We did open up our dancing floor at midnight last night, so that was really refreshing for our patrons," she said Sunday afternoon.
"The essence of O'Reilly's is the ability to get up and 'plank 'er down' as we say … so that was really refreshing to be able to do that last night."
Although capacity limits have ended, O'Reilly said the importance of physical distancing is still something that still needs to be taken into account. She hopes returning patrons can bear with businesses as they navigate the new sense of normalcy.
"[Restrictions have] been really hard on staff actually. 'Put your mask on, sit down, don't stand up, don't dance.' So it's getting a little better," O'Reilly said.
"I think people are ready to get back to normal, I know we are. It's been a long 16 months of strict protocols, so I know we're welcoming this opportunity."
In terms of other kinds of gatherings, outdoor formal gatherings can now include up to 500 people with physical distancing, with indoor formal gatherings limited to 350 people.
Funerals can also increase visitation to 50 people at a time, while arts and recreation centres will follow the rules of formal gatherings.
Personal gatherings, like house parties, are limited to the number of people that can fit in the space with physical distancing.
Isolation and COVID-19 testing rules also change, meaning fully and partially vaccinated Canadians, along with rotational workers, entering Newfoundland and Labrador now have no testing or self-isolation requirements.
People who are unvaccinated will still have to self-isolate, and will be tested for the virus on day seven, eight or nine of their isolation period.
Groups arriving in the province with both vaccinated and unvaccinated people must follow the rules for unvaccinated travellers.
Children under the age of 12 entering the province, however, will follow the rules that apply to the vaccination status of the adults they're travelling with.
Other changes in Step 2 include the permitted return of sports tournaments with COVID-19 protocols in place, and an expansion to allow more people to return to their workplaces in the province.
The province's mandatory mask mandate does not change in Step 2, but Fitzgerald said the province hopes to make a change during the week of Aug. 9.