Province explains ramifications of State of Emergency

HALIFAX: After too many people broke social isolation rules, the province declared a State of Emergency.

“Today, I need to focus on those who are not following public health advice,” Premier Stephen McNeil said during a press conference on March 22 in Halifax. “We are dealing with a deadly virus and this behaviour is unacceptable.”

Under the declaration, people cannot gather in social groups larger than five.

Those deemed essential and exempt from gathering limits include grocery stores, gas stations and pharmacies. If possible, one person per family should be designated to do these tasks. Other groups include construction sites, health care services, community services, criminal justice services, and law enforcement.

Any workplace or business that is not deemed essential can remain open as long as a two-metre or six-foot distance can be maintained. Workspaces must also be cleaned and disinfected at a minimum of twice daily, or as required, and employees must follow proper hygiene.

Also, dentists can no longer practice dentistry in their offices unless they deem it necessary to perform an emergency dental procedure in the best interest of their patient’s health.

Since all provincial parks, beaches and tourist attractions are closed, those who enter can have their cars towed and be charged with trespassing. Provincial trails will remain open for exercise.

“You can still go outside but you walk to exercise, not to socialize,” the premier noted. “You can get groceries, you can go to the pharmacy, but do not do it in packs. Identify a single family member who can do those errands and if you are an individual helping neighbours, please continue to do so.”

Nova Scotia’s borders will tighten to travellers and all entry points will be closely managed. Nova Scotians should only leave if essential. Anyone entering the province will be stopped, questioned and told to self-isolate for 14 days. Exemptions for cross-border travel include health workers in trades and transportations sectors who move goods and people; health people going to work; and people travelling into the province for essential health services.

“If you are coming into our province, you will be stopped at every entry point, questioned and told to self-isolate,” McNeil stated. “For those who are not essential services and want to enter our province to socialize, please stay home.”

Those who’ve travelled outside Canada must self-isolate for 14 days upon their return.

Chuck Porter, the minister responsible for the Emergency Management Organization, explained the powers come under the Emergency Management Act. Because the act now extends the government’s authority, the province can now limit assembly and travel, but can also to free-up emergency and health care resources.

Minister of Justice Mark Furey said these actions were taken in consultation with Dr. Robert Strang, the Chief Medical Officer of Health for Nova Scotia. Under the Health Protection Act, police can enforce self-isolation and social distancing by issuing summary offence tickets, levying fines and making arrests, Furey explained, noting individuals can be fined $1,000 per day and businesses $7,500.

Police can also enforce offences under the Emergency Management Act, such as charging higher than fair market prices for goods and services

“These means that people and businesses can now face fines for violations or orders made under the Health Protection Act,” Furey said. “They now have the authority to fine and arrest, if necessary.”

Dr. Strang said 2,100 tests have been completed at the QEII Health Sciences Centre microbiology lab in Halifax which was certified to report positive and negative tests for COVID-19. Tests will now arrive sooner since they no longer have to be sent to the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg.

Although there were no cases at press time Tuesday, Dr. Strang expected community spread would start and many Nova Scotians are at high risk of infection. While he implored people to self-isolate, Dr. Strang also asked people to work together.

“We need to minimize and slow down the introduction of COVID-19 to this province,” Dr. Strang noted. “It’s critical, it’s how we keep people safe and how we’re actually going to minimize the impact on our health care system.”

For more on Nova Scotia’s State of Emergency, visit: https://novascotia.ca/coronavirus/Declaration-of-Provincial-State-of-Emergency-by-Minister-Porter-Signed-March-22-2020.pdf.