‘Immediate family bubbles’ introduced, beaches now open

HALIFAX: The provincial government has decided to ease more restrictions.

Premier Stephen McNeil and Dr. Robert Strang, chief medical officer of health, announced today, May 15, the easing of some additional public health restrictions around COVID-19 to support physical and mental well-being.

“It’s been two weeks since we eased some restrictions. What we’ve all been doing is working and I thank all Nova Scotians for continuing to follow public health advice,” said Premier McNeil. “We know people need a break from being shut in. That’s why we’re easing a few more restrictions, while keeping our public health directives in place to fight the virus.

Nova Scotia is introducing the immediate family bubble, allowing two immediate family households to come together without physical distancing. The families must be mutually exclusive to each other to minimize risk of COVID-19 spread. This change takes effect immediately.

“Connecting with family and friends is important for our mental health. For the last week we’ve seen low case numbers – your actions are helping to flatten the curve,” said Dr. Strang. “This is a first step to allow immediate family to gather in small groups. We’re asking you to take it slow and make informed choices. We want to reconnect families, but we can’t put anyone at risk.”

Families cannot have large family gatherings like birthday celebrations or reunions. When selecting which other family household they’ll connect with, families should to consider three factors – age, occupation and health condition of all household members.

Other restrictions being loosened include  archery, equestrianism, golf, paddling, sailing/boating and tennis can resume at outdoor facilities as of Saturday at 8 a.m. provided social distancing, environmental cleaning and participant hygiene can be maintained. Organized coaching or training, competitions, tournaments, regattas or similar events are not permitted.

Public beaches will reopen as of May 16 at 8 a.m. but people must stay two metres apart and not gather in groups of more than five.

Provincial and municipal parks reopened on May 1 but playground equipment will continue to be off limits.

The province-wide ban on open fires – those within 305 metres (1,000 feet) of woods anywhere in the province including domestic brush burning and beach fires – has been extended to June 1 at 11:59 p.m. Use of backyard appliances like chimineas and fire pits will be temporarily permitted for households. The ban does not apply to private campgrounds.

A phased plan to further lift public health restrictions is under development. It will be informed by local data and consultation, and guided by a national framework developed by chief medical officers of health. The timing of each phase will be determined by the result of the easing of restrictions.

“We’re continuing to consult and Dr. Strang will present a plan soon that will see Nova Scotia reopen slowly and safely,” the premier added. “We need to get this right.”