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14 rules that relax in Phase 4 of NS reopening

Phase 4 allows eating out in big groups, dancing in bars and mask-free playgrounds starting July 14.

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The fourth phase of Nova Scotia’s reopening plan arrived this morning, after the minimum two weeks at Phase 3, bringing changes that put the province in a state similar to the pre-COVID era. There’s still some time before Nova Scotia reaches its final phase of reopening, but fewer hospitalizations, a declining number of COVID cases and a rise in vaccinations are leading the province in the right direction.

As of Wednesday, Nova Scotia’s COVID-19 reporting shows 74.1 percent of people in the province have received at least one vaccine dose, and 44.7 percent of people have gotten two doses. But at Monday’s COVID briefing, top doc Robert Strang said the province has actually hit its target of administering at least one dose to 75 percent of the population; that discrepancy is largely due to 8,000 vaccinated military members who haven’t been included in Nova Scotia’s reporting.

When Nova Scotia entered Phase 3 on June 30, 72 percent of people in the province had gotten at least one vaccine dose. At that time, only around 20 percent of people had two vaccine doses.

To move into the final phase of Nova Scotia’s reopening plan, at least 75 percent of the population must be fully vaccinated with two doses. The province originally expected to achieve that goal in September, but Strang said at Wednesday’s COVID briefing that we could move into that phase in August depending on vaccination numbers.

While there are a few weeks until people can expect that final reopening in Phase 5, many will be excited to see the province loosen several restrictions as of this morning. Here are 14 restrictions that changed from Phase 3 to Phase 4.

1Informal gatherings
Increase to 25 people indoors or 50 people outdoors without physical distancing and masks. But those people must be household members and close social contacts.

2Restaurants, bars, Casino NS and video lottery terminals
Can return to regular hours of operation. Casino NS and VLTs can operate at maximum capacity with physical distancing; liquor-licensed businesses and restaurants must continue physically distancing every group, but in keeping with the new informal gathering limit, the maximum number of people allowed in a group has risen to 25. Masks also remain mandatory.

3Dancing
Makes a return at events, bars and restaurants, but people must follow the 25-person informal gathering limit. That limit also applies to dancing on outdoor patios at bars and restaurants. Whether indoors or on a patio, dancers must be wearing masks.

4
Retail
Can now operate at maximum capacity while continuing to follow physical distancing measures and wearing masks.

5Festivals, events, meetings and company training
Can have up to 50 percent of a venue’s capacity, up to 150 people indoors and 250 people outdoors. People at these events must continue physical distancing and wearing masks.

6Performing arts
Can gather with up to 25 people indoors and up to 50 people outdoors without physical distancing for rehearsals and performances. Masks remain recommended when physical distancing isn’t possible. Audiences are allowed both indoors and outdoors if the event is held by a business or organization with an event plan; gathering limits follow the measures for other events (see 5).

7Sports
Can also have 25 people indoors and up to 50 people outdoors without physical distancing for practices, games and league play. Tournaments are only allowed if they’re run by or affiliated with a provincial sport organization. Spectators are included in event gathering limits (see 5).

8Faith gatherings, weddings and funerals
Run by a business or organization can fill a venue’s capacity up to 50 percent, up to 150 people indoors and 250 people outdoors with physical distancing and masks. Weddings and funerals not hosted by a business or organization must follow the informal gathering limit (see 1) plus the officiant.

9
Museums and libraries
Can now operate at maximum capacity with physical distancing and mandatory masks.

10Indoor recreation
Such as climbing facilities, dance classes, escape rooms, arcades, indoor play spaces and music lessons can run at maximum capacity while following physical distancing. Masks are required “except during an activity that makes it difficult to wear a mask.”

11Fitness
Gyms, yoga studios, pools, arenas, tennis courts and large multipurpose recreation facilities can operate at maximum capacity with physical distancing and mask-wearing.

12Overnight summer camps
Both indoors and outdoors can run with up to 15 people—excluding staff and volunteers—in each individual camp group without physical distancing, or multiple 15-person groups with physical distancing between each group. Campers age 12 and under do not have to wear masks. The COVID-19 Return to Day Camp Guidelines (PDF) must still be followed.

13Day camps
Both indoors and outdoors can run with 30 people—excluding staff and volunteers—in each individual camp group without physical distancing, or multiple groups that each have 30 people with physical distancing between groups. Again, campers 12 and under do not have to wear masks. The COVID-19 Return to Day Camp Guidelines (PDF) must still be followed.

14Masks
Will no longer be required in some outdoor settings, even when physical distancing isn’t possible. Those include farmers’ markets and playgrounds, and children 12 and under can go maskless in child care.

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