Halifax-area man in his 30s youngest COVID-19 victim in Nova Scotia

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HALIFAX — Nova Scotia Premier Iain Rankin urged caution on Thursday after health officials reported the province's youngest COVID-19 victim as well as a slight rise in new infections.

Rankin reported 25 new cases and the death of a man in his 30s in the Halifax area.

"It's another reminder of how deadly this virus can be and why it's so important that we take this cautious, evidence-based approach as we start to move through a slow reopening of our economy," Rankin told reporters following a cabinet meeting.

A total of 88 people in Nova Scotia have died of COVID-19 since the pandemic began.

Rankin noted that the province's active case count had nudged up over the last two days, adding that limited spread of the virus in the Halifax area remained a concern. The province reported 17 cases on Wednesday after identifying 12 cases on Tuesday.

"It's not a major spike, but it's another reminder of how serious our cases are," Rankin said.

The premier appealed to the public to get tested, saying it was "super important" to help track cases as the province reopens.

Schools in the Halifax and Sydney, N.S., areas reopened for in-person instruction on Thursday, joining the rest of the province's schools, which opened Wednesday.

Nova Scotia's plan, which began Wednesday, reopens the economy and lifts health orders in two-to-four-week increments that depend on the number of infections in the province, the vaccine rollout and the capacity of the health-care system to manage new cases.

Rankin has faced criticism from business and tourism operators because his government's timeline for reopening boundaries isn't co-ordinated with the other Atlantic provinces. He clarified his position after declaring the Atlantic travel bubble dead on Wednesday.

"It's not my decision that it's dead, it's just a fact that two provinces are opening to beyond the Atlantic region," he told reporters. Last summer's Atlantic travel bubble allowed residents of the region to cross boundaries without the need to isolate for two weeks.

The premier has said Nova Scotia could be ready to reopen to travellers from the Atlantic provinces by June 30, but New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador have planned to open to travellers from across Canada by July 1.

Rankin said the plans of other provinces are no reason for Nova Scotia to follow suit, adding the reopening of borders would likely be discussed again by the region's premiers later in June.

COVID-19 testing will begin June 14 at the Halifax Stanfield International Airport and the province is considering ways of setting up testing at its land entry points, he said. Rankin said travellers from other parts of Canada who venture into Nova Scotia will have to quarantine for 14 days.

Meanwhile, the province shortened the interval between first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccine Thursday. People who had received their first shot between March 11 and March 21 and are scheduled to receive their booster shot between June 24 and July 3 can now reschedule for earlier dates. About 8,600 people received their first doses during that period.

The province said Thursday it had administered more than 600,000 vaccine doses. It has set a target of vaccinating at least 75 per cent of its population.

Nova Scotia has 273 active reported cases of COVID-19 and 22 people in hospital with the disease, including nine in intensive care.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 3, 2021.

Keith Doucette, The Canadian Press

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