Sweeping new policies to contain the spread of COVID-19 are part of Nova Scotia’s declaration on Sunday of a provincial state of emergency.
This comes as Nova Scotia adds seven additional cases of the coronavirus, increasing the province’s total to 28 cases, with two requiring hospitalization. All of the cases to date are related to travel or connected to an earlier case.
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Effective today, social gatherings of over five people are now banned in the province.
Nova Scotia’s borders with other provinces, as well as airports and seaports, will be closely monitored beginning 6 am local time on Monday, March 23. Anyone entering the province will be stopped, questioned, and told to undergo mandatory self-isolation for 14 days, with exceptions provided for workers in the healthcare, trades, and transportation sectors.
Police are now authorized to enforce the new measures under the Health Protection Act, specifically social distancing and self-isolation. Individuals can now face fines of $1,000, and businesses can be penalized with a fine of $7,500. Multiple fines can be given daily to an individual or business.
Fines can also be enacted for price gouging goods and services.
“These decisions were not made lightly and should signal to Nova Scotians the seriousness of what’s before us,” said Premier Stephen McNeil in a statement.
“These orders may seem harsh but they are absolutely necessary. We all have a moral and legal obligation to obey if we want to bring the spread of COVID-19 under control.”
Only essential businesses and workplaces can remain open, but they must practice social distancing of at least two metres between individuals. As well, workspaces must be cleaned and disinfected at least twice daily.
All provincial parks, beaches, and tourist attractions are closed, although provincial trails will remain open for exercise, with mandatory gathering limits and social distancing policies.
Additionally, to ensure the growing number of tests can be processed quickly, the lab at Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre in Halifax is now certified to report positive and negative tests for COVID-19, instead of the earlier practice of sending tests to the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg.