HALIFAX — Health officials in Nova Scotia are imposing new restrictions in the Halifax area due to concerns about a steady rise in COVID-19 infections and the spread of a more transmissible variant of virus.
Premier Iain Rankin announced that starting Saturday, restaurants and bars in and around Halifax will be forced to stop serving food and beverages at 9 p.m. and close by 10 p.m. — one hour earlier than under the previous health order.
The province is prohibiting sports, arts and cultural events and festivals in the affected area, which also includes parts of Hants and Lunenburg counties, and Rankin said residents in long-term care homes can only receive visits from designated caregivers.
Nova Scotians are also being asked to avoid all non-essential travel within the province, especially to and from the Halifax area.
Chief medical officer Dr. Robert Strang told reporters Friday concerns about the spread of a variant first detected in the United Kingdom informed the province's decision to impose what he called a "circuit breaker" in the Halifax region. It is the second time in three months such measures have been taken.
"We had hoped we would not be back in this situation, but a return to these types of restrictions are necessary," he said. "I fully appreciate how disruptive they are to families, to individuals, to businesses, however COVID-19 is a social virus, so we need to focus our restrictions to limit social activities."
He said the province is moving faster than it did in December, the last time restrictions were tightened, because of concern around the variant.
Officials reported 10 new cases of COVID-19 Friday, nine of which were in the health region that includes Halifax. The province had 35 active known infections as of Friday.
Health officials say the new restrictions should last at least a month and that more could be added if COVID-19 cases continue to rise.
Strang said his main concern is cases with unknown sources and increased rates of socializing. "By acting now very quickly, it puts us in the best position possible in the coming weeks," he said. "It's short-term pain for long-term success."
Rules will be changing for rotational workers as well. They will now be required to undergo three COVID-19 tests during their modified 14-day quarantine.
Strang stressed the importance of COVID-19 testing, noting that influenza is not present this year. "So if somebody has even very mild cold-like symptoms, there's a strong possibility that you may have COVID-19," he said, urging those with even a single symptom to get tested.
Irving Shipbuilding temporarily suspended production at the Halifax shipyard for the day Friday after a member of its workforce tested positive for COVID-19.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 26, 2021.
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This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.
Danielle Edwards, The Canadian Press