Halifax – Nova Scotia is delaying the transition to the final phase of its stimulus package until early next month due to a fourth wave of COVID-19 in the province and elsewhere in the Maritimes.
Phase 5 of the deconfinement plan was to go into effect on Wednesday, but Health Minister Michelle Thompson has set a new date of October 4 at the earliest.
“It is better to keep the status quo for a while, rather than ignore the escalation in cases and move on to the next step,” she said in a press conference on Tuesday. Fully reopening the province’s economy before October “could force us to take stricter hygiene measures later and force us to back down,” she said.
“This is not what we want,” the minister ruled.
The province on Tuesday reported 66 new cases of COVID-19, of which 61 are in the northern region. Two are related to travel and 59 are in close contact with previously reported infections.
Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Robert Strang, said officials were specifically monitoring the northern region to prevent the virus from spreading elsewhere. The region would in many cases involve an unknown group of people who are largely unaffiliated.
The remaining five cases are in the Halifax area, where officials say there are signs of community spread among people aged 20 to 40 who have not been vaccinated and who participate in social activities.
The authorities have not registered any cases related to the schools, which were opened for students on September 7. Masks will be mandatory in schools till at least 4 October.
Phase 5 of the deconfinement plan would remove most public health measures related to the pandemic if 75 percent of all Nova Scotians are fully immunized.
However, about 72.7 percent of the population is fully vaccinated, and Premier Tim Houston said the 75 percent target was “very firm”.
Dr Strang said the fourth wave particularly affects people who have not been fully vaccinated.
“The fourth wave is hitting the Atlantic provinces, as it is doing elsewhere, and it primarily targets those who have not been vaccinated,” he said. I’m not confident enough to go to Phase 5.
According to him, the province will be “much more prepared” to do so even on October 4, once the “proof of vaccination” policy is in place.
This proof of vaccination would allow people who have been doubly vaccinated to attend places deemed non-essential, such as restaurants, gyms, cinemas, as well as to attend concerts and sporting events.
In New Brunswick, officials are reporting 35 new cases on Tuesday, including 30 people who have not been adequately vaccinated.
The number of active cases in the province is 244. Eleven people are hospitalized with the virus in New Brunswick, eight of whom are in intensive care.
Officials have also confirmed that one positive case has been reported at Frederickton High School, as well as another at Andover Elementary School in Perth-Andover.
The protocol requires schools where cases are detected or to switch to distance learning for at least a day to allow epidemiological screening of contacts.
As of Tuesday, 77 percent of eligible people in New Brunswick have been fully vaccinated, while 85.6 percent of the population has received at least one dose.
Officials have once again called on people who haven’t been fully vaccinated to come to the walk-in clinic, or to make an appointment online or with their pharmacist.
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