By Keith Doucette
HALIFAX — Nova Scotia Premier Iain Rankin says he’s comfortable sticking to a minimum of two weeks between phases of his government’s five-step reopening plan, despite pressure from business and tourism groups.
The business and tourism sectors have been pushing for the government to set specific reopening dates that co-ordinate with the other three Atlantic provinces and to potentially accelerate the phases. Rankin, however, told reporters Wednesday he’s not ready to change the plan.
“I think we were clear that the two-week time frame was needed, especially opening up with the first phase,” he said. “We are comfortable but we need to stay cautious for next week with Phase 2.”
The premier said it’s increasingly likely the second phase will begin on June 16. He has previously said that if all goes well, the province could open to travellers from the other Atlantic provinces by June 30.
Prince Edward Island, meanwhile, plans to welcome partially vaccinated Atlantic Canadian travellers by June 27, while New Brunswick is dropping its self-isolation requirement for Atlantic Canadians on July 1. Newfoundland and Labrador plans to allow travellers from the rest of Canada as early as July 1.
Nova Scotia’s phased approach is to proceed in two-to-four-week intervals, depending on the number of infections in the province, the vaccine rollout and the capacity of the health-care system to manage new cases.
Rankin didn’t rule out altering phases three and four of the plan, which would allow Canadians to enter the province under certain unspecified conditions. “We continue to look at that and how we can provide more accommodations, especially for those who are vaccinated because they have more protection,” he said.
The province reported 13 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday and announced that 62 per cent of the entire population had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. The province has 164 active reported infections and 15 people in hospital with the disease, including seven in intensive care.
Nova Scotia’s health authority also announced it was beginning to ease visitor restrictions at hospitals. It said the plan for hospital visitors would proceed in two-to-four-week intervals to align with the province’s reopening plan.
The first step entered into effect Wednesday and allows two family members or support people to visit patients in intensive care, critically ill patients in the emergency department and women in labour and after they give birth.
Under the second phase, slated to begin June 16 at the earliest, one family member or support person will be allowed to visit any admitted patient or a patient in the emergency department, and three family members or support people will be allowed for palliative care patients and others nearing the end of life.
The third phase, scheduled to start June 30 at the earliest, would allow two family members or support people to visit admitted patients and four would be allowed to visit patients in palliative care and others nearing end of life.
In the fourth phase, one family member or support person would be allowed to accompany someone receiving outpatient care.
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