A medical laboratory assistant prepares Covid-19 tests for analysis in a laboratory at Whiston Hospital in Merseyside, Liverpool, England, Tuesday Oct. 20, 2020. The team of scientists are working round the clock at the hospital to deliver rapid coronavirus test results. (Peter Byrne/PA via AP)

Restaurants and bars in Nova Scotia's Halifax Regional Municipality and Hants County will be able to reopen next week, the province announced on Thursday.

In a release, Nova Scotia Health says given the low case numbers over the holidays, restaurants and licenced establishments in areas of Halifax Regional Municipality and Hants County can reopen for dine-in service starting Jan. 4.

Restaurants and bars must follow the provincewide restrictions, including ending service by 10 p.m. and closing by 11 p.m. They can continue takeout and delivery service with no restrictions. The Halifax casino and VLTs remain closed.

"Tonight would normally be a time to get together in large groups for a countdown and celebration. We cannot do that this year because we know how important it is to keep our gatherings small and follow all the other public health protocols," said Premier Stephen McNeil. "As you look forward to 2021, remember the strength, kindness and love that got you through this difficult year and carry it over into the new year. We can all have a sense of hope with the COVID-19 vaccines coming online. I wish all Nova Scotians a safe, healthy and happy new year."

The Halifax Regional Muncipality and parts of neighbouring Hants County - specifically the Enfield and Mount Uniacke areas - had been under increased restrictions since Nov. 23, due to an increase of cases in those areas.

Those restrictions were extended on Dec. 4, and again on Dec. 16. Those restrictions were scheduled to last until Jan. 11, however, restaurants will now be able to open on Jan. 4 due to low case numbers in the region.

THREE NEW CASES

Nova Scotia has announced three new COVID-19 cases on Thursday. Six previously reported cases are now considered recovered, dropping the total number of active cases in the province to 22.

All three of Thursday's new cases were identified in Nova Scotia's Central zone. One is a close contact of a previously reported case and two are related to travel outside of Atlantic Canada.

The province says they will not be releasing updated case numbers from Jan. 1, 2 or 3, except in unusual circumstances, as they take a brief pause for the New Year's holiday.

"It's good that our case numbers continue to be relatively low but we can't let down our guard, especially tonight when many people would normally have a party," said Dr. Robert Strang, chief medical officer of health. "Let's keep our gatherings small or virtual as we celebrate all we've accomplished together in 2020. I wish all Nova Scotians a happy new year and ask for your continued help to accomplish even more in 2021."

The province also reported three cases in the Central zone on Wednesday, including two at Dartmouth schools.

One of Wednesday's new cases is at Prince Andrew High School and one is at Eric Graves Memorial Junior High School, both in Dartmouth.

Both schools are currently closed for the holiday break and will be cleaned again before staff return on Jan. 4. Public health says contact tracing for three cases is underway, and everyone who is a close contact will be notified, tested and asked to self-isolate.

THE IMPORTANCE OF TESTING

Infectious disease specialist Dr. Lisa Barrett says not everyone who has COVID has symptoms, so it's important for people to continue to get tested.

"We've got a whole new way of living for the next few months until we have enough people vaccinated that we have protection," Barrett said. "It's going to be a number of months and we're going to be getting out and about a little bit more and part of that is going to be incorporating testing and handwashing, masking and distance into the way we live."

MORE VACCINES HAVE ARRIVED

Nova Scotia has now received two shipments of the Pfizer vaccine and its first shipment of 3,700 doses of the Moderna vaccine.

"Our journey is not over and we still have a long road ahead of us but we have vaccines approved and it's now going into arms and with the arrival of the vaccine, there also arrives a new hope that we will soon see a light at the end of the tunnel," Strang said.

Until then, the province's top doctor says we need to stay the course and be COVID safe.

POTENTIAL EXPOSURE NOTIFICATIONS

On Thursday evening, Nova Scotia Health issued potential COVID-19 exposure notifications for four flights and a mall in Dartmouth.

Anyone present at the following location on the specified date and time is asked to go online or call 811 to book a COVID-19 test regardless of whether or not they have COVID-19 symptoms.

  • Mic Mac Mall (21 Mic Mac Blvd, Dartmouth)
  • Dec. 19 between 12:30 p.m. and 3:40 p.m.
  • May develop symptoms up to, and including, Jan. 2, 2021.

Anyone who was on the following flights in the specified rows is asked to continue to self-isolate and immediately book a COVID-19 test, regardless of whether or not they have COVID-19 symptoms. You can also call 811 if you don't have online access or if you have other symptoms that concern you. All other passengers on this flight should continue to self-isolate as required, and monitor for signs and symptoms of COVID-19.

  • WestJet Flight 248on Dec. 23
  • From Toronto (9:00 a.m.) to Halifax (12:00 p.m.). Passengers in rows 8-14 in seats A, B, C and D are asked to continue to self-isolate and immediately book a COVID-19 test.
  • May develop symptoms up to, and including, Jan. 6, 2021.
     
  • WestJet Flight 248 travelling on Dec. 27
  • From Toronto (10:00 a.m.) to Halifax (12:30 p.m.). Passengers in rows 1-4 in seats A, C and D are asked to continue to self-isolate and immediately book a COVID-19 test.
  • May develop symptoms up to, and including, Jan. 10, 2021.
     
  • Air Canada Flight 624 on Dec. 27
  • From Toronto (9:00 p.m.) to Halifax on Dec. 28 (2:00 a.m.).
  • Passengers in rows 15-21 in seats C, D, E and F and rows 1-4 in seats A, C, and D are asked to continue to self-isolate and immediately book a COVID-19 test.
  • May develop symptoms up to, and including, Jan. 11, 2021.
     
  • Air Canada Flight 604 on Dec. 29
  • From Toronto (8:00 a.m.) to Halifax (11:30 a.m.). Passengers in rows 16-22 in seats A, B, C and D are asked to continue to self-isolate and immediately book a COVID-19 test.
  • May develop symptoms up to, and including, Jan. 12, 2021.

On Wednesday evening, Nova Scotia Health issued several potential COVID-19 exposure notifications for retail businesses across the HRM.

Anyone present at the following locations on the specified date and time is asked to go online or call 811 to book a COVID-19 test regardless of whether or not they have COVID-19 symptoms.

  • Pete’s Frootique Sunnyside Mall (1595 Bedford Hwy, Bedford)
  • Dec. 23 between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.
  • May develop symptoms up to, and including Jan. 6.
  • Walmart Bedford Commons - photo kiosk area (141 Damascus Rd, Bedford)
  • Dec. 23 between 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m.
  • May develop symptoms up to, and including Jan. 6.

If you have symptoms of COVID-19, those present at the following locations on the named dates and times are required to self-isolate while waiting for their test result. If you do not have any symptoms of COVID-19, you do not need to self-isolate while you wait for your test result.

  • Walmart Bedford Commons – rest of store (141 Damascus Rd, Bedford)
  • Dec. 23 between 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m.
  • May develop symptoms up to, and including Jan. 6.
  • Michael’s Bedford Commons (161 Damascus Rd, Bedford)
  • Dec. 23 between 1:30 p.m. and 3 p.m.
  • May develop symptoms up to, and including Jan. 6.
  • Sobey’s Tacoma Drive (60 Tacoma Dr, Dartmouth)
  • Dec. 23 between 4:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.
  • May develop symptoms up to, and including Jan. 6.

Click here for a full list of potential exposures.

CASE BREAKDOWN

Since Oct. 1, Nova Scotia has done 113,560 tests. There have been 397 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and no deaths.

Since the pandemic began, there have been 1,486 cumulative confirmed cases, and 65 deaths. 1,399 cases are considered recovered, leaving 22 active cases in the province.

There is currently one patient in hospital due to COVID-19, with no patients in intensive care.

The Nova Scotia Health Authority's labs completed 2,203 tests on Tuesday.

The province's confirmed cases range in age from under 10 to over 90.

Fifty-six per cent of cases are female, and 44 per cent are male.

There are cases confirmed across the province, but most have been identified in the Central Zone, which contains the Halifax Regional Municipality.

The provincial government says cumulative cases by zone may change as data is updated in Panorama, the province's electronic information system.

The numbers reflect where a person lives and not where their sample was collected.

  • Western Zone: 84 cases
  • Central Zone: 1227 cases
  • Northern Zone: 108 cases
  • Eastern Zone: 67 cases

MONTHLY BREAKDOWN

With 2020 coming to an end, Nova Scotia has reported a total of 1486 cases of COVID-19, since the first cases were reported on March 14.

December's final total of 181 new cases was the third highest monthly new case total reported in the province, behind only April and November.

  • December – 181 new cases reported
  • November – 196 new cases reported
  • October – 21 new cases reported
  • September – 3 new cases reported
  • August – 16 new cases reported
  • July – 7 new cases reported
  • June – 6 new cases reported
  • May – 109 new cases reported
  • April – 799 new cases reported
  • March – 148 new cases reported

MORE VACCINES ON THE WAY

Nova Scotia received its first shipment of 1,950 doses of the Pfizer vaccine on Dec. 15.

A second shipment, containing 3,900 doses, was received on Dec. 22.

Vaccination clinics paused from Dec. 24-28 and resumed Tuesday.

As of Wednesday, 2,600 Nova Scotians have been vaccinated.

Meanwhile, the first shipment of the Moderna vaccine is expected to arrive in the province this week and will contain 3,700 doses.

"Our weekly shipments of vaccine are confirmed through January," said Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health. "We now have the freezers and equipment needed for any type of vaccine at five locations across the province. So, early in January we'll be able to start vaccinating at these other locations."

More details about Nova Scotia's immunization plan are expected next week.

COVID ALERT APP

Canada's COVID-19 Alert app is available in Nova Scotia.

The app, which can be downloaded through the Apple App Store or Google Play, notifies users if they may have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

LIST OF SYMPTOMS

Anyone who experiences a fever or new or worsening cough, or two or more of the following new or worsening symptoms, is encouraged to take an online test or call 811 to determine if they need to be tested for COVID-19:

  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Shortness of breath
  • Runny nose/nasal congestion