HALIFAX: The provincial government announced that people can gather in larger groups, events can now have more attendees and playgrounds are open.

Premier Stephen McNeil and Dr. Robert Strang, chief medical officer of health for Nova Scotia, announced on June 18, that provincial officials are preparing to enter the Atlantic Canadian bubble, and eventually open to Canadians in other provinces.

“Our cases of COVID are down, and that’s good news, but until there’s a vaccine, we need to learn to live with COVID,” the premier said during a press conference in Halifax. “And as we open up our province, including to visitors from other provinces, we have to be vigilant and to follow the protocols. We will be able to flatten the curve and will continue to do that and welcome people from other provinces, but we can’t stop. Dr. Strang and I are discussing opening ourselves up to the Atlantic bubble with our Atlantic colleagues. And that will be our first step. And in the next step after that we will be opening up our province to the rest of Canada. We have to be open to this as tourism is one of the most important industries, it employs tens of thousands of Nova Scotians and we need people to get back to work so they can feed their families and keep our communities alive.”

People can now gather in groups of up to 10 without physical distancing. People in a group are not required to be exclusive but they are strongly encouraged to maintain a consistent group.

This change replaces the concept of family household bubbles.

“Dr. Strang and I agree that it’s time to bring down the bubble and gatherings up,” McNeil said. “Effective today, we are bursting the bubble.

“We know that a lot of you having been waiting for months to come in close contact with people you love. Dr. Strang and I are happy to tell you, you can finally get that long-awaited hug from your grandchild, a parent, or a close friend.”

Gatherings of up to 50 will now be allowed but people must observe physical distancing of two metres or six feet.

“And let’s not forget the other core principles; washing your hands, good hygiene and wearing a mask, if you feel that is necessary, and definitely when you cannot maintain physical distancing,” the premier noted. “

The larger gathering limit of 50 applies to social events, faith gatherings, sports and physical activity, weddings and funerals, and arts and culture events like theatre performances, dance recitals, festivals, and concerts.

Businesses that are too small to ensure physical distancing can have no more than 10 people on their premises at a time.

Playgrounds can start reopening. Municipalities and other owners of playgrounds will need time to prepare them for reopening so Nova Scotians should not expect them to be open immediately.

“We know how important it is to get your children outside,” McNeil said. “COVID has been difficult on our kids, they’ve had to come up with new ways to play, and one thing we know they’ve missed is their local playground. So to the kids out there, your playgrounds are open, effective today. So hit the slides, climb the monkey bars and swing high, and most importantly have fun and be safe.”