COVID spike in Nova Scotia leads to month-long 'circuit breaker' lockdown for Halifax

·3 min read

HALIFAX — Atlantic Canada's largest city is going back into COVID-19 lockdown after Nova Scotia on Thursday reported its highest single-day case count since last spring.

Premier Iain Rankin said month-long "circuit breaker" restrictions were necessary for Halifax and surrounding communities after 38 new infections were reported, bringing the number of active cases in the province to 111.

Rankin said the new restrictions begin at 8 a.m. Friday and will remain in place until at least May 20.

"Our case numbers are rising too rapidly," he told reporters. "Make no mistake, there is a lot at stake here."

Thursday's case count was the highest since April 23, 2020, when health officials reported 55 infections. Officials have identified 102 cases since last Friday.

Thirty-three of the new infections reported Thursday were identified in the Halifax area, where officials said there is community spread.

The new restrictions limit outdoor and indoor gatherings to five people and prohibit large gatherings, including social events, festivals, sports and wedding receptions. People are asked not to travel into or out of the Halifax area unless it is absolutely necessary. Travel will be allowed for school, work, health care and legal requirements.

Most schools and all childcare centres remain open, but several schools in the Dartmouth, N.S., area will close on Friday and students will move to at-home learning for the next two weeks.

Chief medical officer of health Dr. Robert Strang said while public schools in the rest of the province will continue with in-person learning, masks will be mandatory for all students. Previously, masks were necessary for Grades 4 and up.

Restaurants and licensed establishments in the Halifax area will close Friday for in-person dining and retail businesses and malls will be limited to operating at 25 per cent capacity. As well, no visitors or volunteers will be allowed inside long-term care facilities, except for designated care providers.

"This situation scares me but I know we have the ability to regain control," Strang said.

Officials said 19 of Thursday's cases in Halifax involved close contacts of previously reported infections, 10 were under investigation and four were related to foreign and domestic travel. All of the remaining cases in the province were related to travel.

Nova Scotia's new travel rules went into effect Thursday morning, prohibiting non-essential travel into the province from anywhere in the country other than Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador.

The outbreak also led the province to cancel next month's women's world hockey championship set for Halifax and Truro, N.S. It is the second consecutive year that tournament has been cancelled because of the pandemic.

On Thursday, Rankin said the tournament was "not essential."

"I'm a hockey fan," he said. "I'm not happy with the decision but we have to put public safety first."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 22, 2021.

Keith Doucette, The Canadian Press