N.S. premier says aggressive lockdown measures now will allow for summer with fewer restrictions

As Nova Scotia grapples with a recent surge in new COVID-19 cases, the province’s premier says the aggressive measures they’ve enacted now will put them in a better place for a summer with fewer restrictions.

In mid-April, the Maritime province began to see a dramatic rise in new infections with record-setting case counts fuelled largely by new virus variants. Nova Scotia has reported more than 600 new cases since April 18 – nearly a quarter of the total number of the cases in the province since the pandemic began.

In response to the outbreak, the province initiated a two-week lockdown on Wednesday that closed all non-essential retail businesses, public and private schools, restricted travel between communities, and reduced gatherings to household bubbles. 

“It’s a race between the variants coming into our borders and the vaccine rollouts,” Premier Iain Rankin told CTV’s Your Morning on Friday. “We’re working on all cylinders. Now vaccinating more per capita than almost any other province.”

Although the age group with the most new infections has been those between 20 and 39 years old, Rankin said the province is going to stick with their age-based approach of vaccinating older groups first.

“We've taken the age-based approach since the beginning and so it’s no surprise that the majority of cases are those that are younger,” he said. “The more that you veer off that path, the more you're going to extend the time that it's going to take for everyone to get their first dose.”

However, Rankin said he expects that everyone over the age of 16 in Nova Scotia will be able to book a vaccination appointment within the next six weeks.

In addition to expediting the vaccine rollout, Rankin said they’re continuing to conduct asymptomatic testing and contact tracing.

Rankin said they’re also focusing on containing the spread of the virus in the province’s Central Zone, which contains the Halifax Regional Municipality where the majority of cases are concentrated.

The premier said they restricted travel in and out of Halifax and closed non-essential retail businesses, restaurants, and schools there earlier than anywhere else in the province.

“We’re trying really hard to contain this spike in Halifax,” he said.

Over the past few days, new infections have slightly declined in the province.

“That makes us cautiously optimistic, but there could be fluctuation,” he said. “So we'll continue to watch very closely.”

Rankin also acknowledged how difficult the lockdowns have been for businesses and that the province is working on providing a package to support them.

“It's a challenge for businesses. It's the fluctuation of being open and closed, but we really need to get this contained,” he said. “We think with this more aggressive shutdown that we'll be in a better place to actually have a summer with less restrictions.”

On Wednesday, Rankin and the premiers of New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador agreed to delay the reopening of their former travel bubble indefinitely. Rankin said they need to get the current outbreak under control before they will consider it again.