Nova Scotia moved to ease some public health restrictions on Friday in what the premier said was partially an attempt to relieve some of the pressure from the COVID-19 pandemic and a series of recent tragedies.
“It’s no exaggeration that we were worried about people’s mental health. This has been tough on people and on communities,” Stephen McNeil said Friday.
McNeil said it has been tough for Nova Scotians to deal with the isolation caused by the pandemic, then have to cope with last month’s shooting rampage that killed 22 people and this week’s helicopter crash that claimed the lives of six members of the navy.
“There’s no question the tragedy of (April) 18th and 19th has been heartbreaking from one end of our province to the other. Every organization has been impacted. We’ve all felt it,” McNeil said.
“And then of course … the Canadian Forces are an important part of who we are as a province. We are the home to Canada’s navy.”
Effective immediately, the province is easing some public health restrictions around COVID-19, though existing directives around physical distancing and social gatherings will remain in place.
Under the changes, hiking trails and provincial and municipal parks can reopen, but playground equipment will continue to be off limits.
Garden centres, nurseries and similar businesses can open, and while driving ranges can open, golf courses will remain closed. Golf clubs can, however, perform necessary maintenance and preparations for opening.
Sport fishing is permitted and people can attend boating, yacht or sailing clubs for the purpose of preparing boats for use.
They can also use their cottages, though use is restricted to one household unit at a time and campgrounds are still closed. An exception is recreational vehicles parked year-round at private campgrounds, which can be used but must follow the same rules as cottages.
Drive-in religious services will also be allowed, as long as people stay in their cars, they are parked two metres apart and there are no physical interactions between people.
Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health, said it’s critical the province takes a measured approach to easing restrictions.
“We don’t want to rush into this and undo the progress and the results of the hard work by all Nova Scotians in the last few weeks,” Strang said Friday as the province reported one new death from COVID-19 and 12 new cases.
Outdoor gatherings should include no more than five people, Strang said.
McNeil added it’s important for people to look after their mental health while doing all they can to curb the spread of COVID-19.
“take time this weekend to do something for you and for your family. You’ve earned it,” he said.