N.S. requires N.B. travellers to show vaccine proof because of rising COVID-19 cases

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HALIFAX — New Brunswickers who aren't fully vaccinated against COVID-19 will be treated like travellers from outside the Atlantic region and must isolate upon entering Nova Scotia, premier-designate Tim Houston told reporters Monday.

Houston made the announcement alongside chief medical officer of health Dr. Robert Strang in the premier-designate's first COVID-19 briefing since his Progressive Conservatives won a majority mandate in last week's election.

"We expect this to impact a very small number of people," Houston said of the border measure, which begins Wednesday. "The reality is being cautious has kept this province safe and we will continue to be cautious."

Houston cited rising cases in New Brunswick as the reason people coming from that province with just one dose of vaccine will have to isolate for a week and produce a negative test. Unvaccinated travellers, meanwhile, will face two weeks of isolation upon entering the province.

The policy is the same as the one already in place for travellers coming from provinces and territories outside Atlantic Canada.

"New Brunswick has seen a recent rise in cases and some of our cases in the last week are directly linked to that province," Strang said. "This is about a small percentage of people who are travelling for recreation or leisure and are not yet vaccinated."

Health officials in New Brunswick on Monday said they had identified 58 new cases of COVID-19 since Saturday, and 85 per cent of them involved people who weren't fully vaccinated. The province has reported 340 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since July 1.

On Monday, health officials in Nova Scotia reported 17 new cases of COVID-19 since the last update on Friday.

Houston and Strang said New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs and that province's chief medical officer of health, Dr. Jennifer Russell, had been advised of the new border requirement.

Officials also announced that the final phase of Nova Scotia's five-step reopening plan is set to go into effect Sept. 15. as long as 75 per cent of the province's population is fully vaccinated. Houston said the province is on track to have about 72 per cent of its population fully vaccinated by the end of August, although he said about 100,000 people still haven't had a first dose.

"If we hit the (75 per cent) target sooner, we will work with public health to change the (September) date accordingly," Houston said.

The final phase of the reopening will mean restrictions such as masking, physical distancing and gathering limits will no longer be necessary, Strang said.

"It's time to start living more with COVID even if we see rising case numbers that would have previously meant provincewide restrictions," he said. "Our vaccine coverage means we can carry on with only border restrictions and maybe if necessary, targeted local restrictions."

With public schools scheduled to reopen Sept. 7, officials also released the province's back-to-school-plan. It will initially require masks to be worn inside school buildings or buses at all times except when eating, drinking, participating in physical activity and for breaks where people are physically distanced.

As the province enters Phase 5 of its reopening plan, schools will be allowed to transition to optional mask use. Schools are asked to create "supportive environments" for those who choose to continue wearing masks once Phase 5 begins.

Non-essential visitors will be allowed in schools, although virtual meetings and visits will still be encouraged, and if restrictions are required, students will move to at-home learning, although the government didn't set specific infection levels that would trigger schools to close.

In a news release, the Nova Scotia Teachers' Union said it supported the mask order for students across all grades and would consult its members about other aspects of the province's plan over the coming days.

"The NSTU has always felt that until this pandemic is over, every student that can, should be required to wear a mask in school to prevent the spread of COVID-19," union president Paul Wozney said. "It's important this policy will continue moving forward."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 23, 2021.

Keith Doucette, The Canadian Press

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