HALIFAX: After watching too many people breaking social isolation rules, the province has declared a State of Emergency.
“Today, I need to focus on those who are not following public health advice,” the Premier said during a press conference this morning in Halifax. “We are dealing with a deadly virus and this behaviour is unacceptable.”
Under the declaration, people cannot gather in groups larger than five. Since provincial parks are closed, those who enter will have their cars towed and charged with trespassing.
“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.”
Those who’ve travelled outside Canada must self-isolate for 14 days upon their return. The borders to the province have now been tightened, except for essential services like trucking, health care, child protection agencies, and law enforcement.
“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.”
McNeil said the province had “no choice” but to implement these strict measures to stop the spread of COVID-19.
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.
Attorney General 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, fines and making arrests, Furey explained, noting individuals can be fined $1,000 per day and businesses $7,500.
“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. Strange confirmed there are seven new cases of COVID-19, which are travel-related, or concerning those who had close contact with previous cases. This brings the total to 28 cases of COVID-19 in Nova Scotia involving people ranging in age from their upper teens to their 70s in “communities across the province.”
Dr. Strang said 2,100 tests have been completed at the QEII Health Sciences Centre Microbiology Lab, meaning test results do not have to be sent to Winnipeg and will now arrive sooner.
Although there are no cases yet, Dr. Strang expects community spread will start and many Nova Scotians are at high risk of infection. While he implored people to stay home, Dr. Strang also asked neighbours to work together and help each other.
“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.”
Dr. Strang added that jurisdictions that have imposed such measures have been able to control and contain the spread of COVID-19