New restrictions introduced by the Nova Scotia government this week to curb the spread of COVID-19 and the Omicron variant are taking a toll emotionally and financially on families throughout the province.
Residents at long-term care homes are cancelling Christmas plans this week. The latest rules mean residents can only leave their facility for medical appointments or for a drive, either with a visitor or in a facility vehicle, with no stops and no contact with other people.
"People understand that the restrictions are necessary," said Angela Berrette, the executive director of Saint Vincent's Nursing Home in Halifax.
"[The residents] don't want to put anyone else in jeopardy any more than we want them to be at risk. But living in a shared environment means that they're not able to take that risk themselves."
Berrette said the new rules are "such a hardship" for the residents, especially those who had holiday plans with family.
'More disappointing than 2020'
"Everyone was expecting Christmas would be more open, which was so welcomed. The residents now need to cancel their plans for visiting and holiday meals," Berrette said.
"This may be more disappointing than in 2020 when we knew things were very limited early on, so plans weren't made."
She noted that provincial restrictions allow long-term care residents to go for scenic drives or share meals with their families inside the care home, but Saint Vincent's cannot accommodate this safely, partly due to staffing issues and lack of rapid tests.
Family holiday celebrations aren't the only gatherings being affected by the latest round of restrictions. Event planners are scrambling to make alternative arrangements for things that were also planned in advance.
"I have a big wedding on New Year's Eve, or what was meant to be a big wedding on New Year's Eve," said Jessica Murray, owner of the Wedding Whisperer, a wedding planning company in Halifax.
"The guest list is cut down well over half … and the things you think of when it comes to the celebration — the dance, the socializing, the really coming together to celebrate — now isn't so much."
Though some weddings can go ahead with changes, Murray said she is getting multiple cancellations and postponements.
Loss of income
"You're trying to maintain your business and continue to have the weddings," she said. "But it also comes with a lot of big emotions for yourself and for your couples.... It's really been tough."
People who gain most of their business from in-person events are suffering, too. Selena Marchand, a makeup artist in Halifax, has had to cancel all her holiday bookings due to the new public health rules.
"This is my fourth lockdown. I basically go from working to having zero income," Marchand said. "Since it's the fourth time, I've run out of all my resources. I had savings the first one or two times, but now I'm down to zero and I have no financial support."
Like long-term care residents, Marchand said this wave of restrictions is the most painful because it was unexpected and happened so quickly.
She had seven weddings and some New Year's events booked, which would have amounted to thousands of dollars of income.
Even if weddings go ahead with fewer guests, Marchand isn't allowed to do anyone's makeup because it requires close contact and removing masks.
"[That was] money that I was depending on," she said. "It's not just a side thing. This is my full-time job."
The provincial government said the restrictions will be in place until at least Jan. 12. Marchand said she doesn't qualify for financial assistance, and doesn't know what she will do to make a living.
"I'm just hoping that it's going to be soon that I can work, but it's not looking good."
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