Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health, at the COVID-19 briefing, Thursday, April 23, 2020. Photo: Communications Nova Scotia.

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Nova Scotia hopes to start loosening up restrictions in place around COVID-19 at the end of May, including allowing “non-essential businesses” and “daycare and education settings” to open and “non-urgent health care services to resume,” according to a private presentation given by the province’s chief medical officer of health this week.

The Halifax Examiner has obtained the slides from the presentation Dr. Robert Strang gave to the Halifax Chamber of Commerce and the Nova Scotia Business & Labour Economic Coalition, set up to help plan the recovery of the province’s economy. News website allNovaScotia.ca first reported on the presentation Wednesday night.

The 17-page slide deck outlines the province’s five-phase plan to reopen, based on an ongoing risk assessment.

But it’s no done deal.

“This risk assessment will help us see when the levels of outbreak activity and system capacity are sufficient to relax measures,” it says.

“At this time, this is not imminent (days). The first criterion is low-to-no cases for a minimum of 18 days.”

With nine new cases announced Thursday and three more deaths at Northwood, the epicentre of Nova Scotia’s COVID-19 outbreak, the pandemic is far from over.

“Nova Scotia is at a critical time in the outbreak — the capacity to end the measures is highly dependent now on keeping coronavirus out of high risk facilities, as well as not reintroducing it into areas currently experiencing low rates,” one slide reads.

“It is possible that there are regions of the province that will be ready before that, but there are risks to reopening different parts of the province at different times, the largest being the inadvertent encouragement of travel between regions.”

The plan started to roll out on the week of April 27, with a “soft launch” on May 2 —  the day after Strang and Premier Stephen McNeil announced parks would reopen.

After 28 days, on May 30, public health will assess the risk of moving to Phase 1.

Phase 1 includes: allowing “small essential cultural gatherings (e.g., funerals);” “Allowing some non-essential businesses to open;” “Allowing daycare and education settings to operate/open;” “Allowing additional outdoor activities to resume;” “Allowing non- urgent health care services to resume;” and “Increase permissible gatherings from 5 to 10 person maximum (NS specific).”

After another 28 days, the province would assess the risk of moving to Phase 2, “including larger gathering size and so increase additional business — this will be targeted at ‘low risk’ businesses.”

Phase 3 would involve “moderate-risk” businesses and larger groups, and Phase 4 “would include highest risk settings and another increase in gathering sizes.”

Phase 5 is dependent on a vaccine: “all business [sic] reopen as desired when vaccine/therapeutics are open.”

The slide deck lists three bottom lines, including that, “A decision to reopen will be based on the meeting of these criteria and not a ‘date.’” And “Tightening measures again may occur if reopening results in significant ‘flare ups’ of activity.”

It also notes that “core personal public health measures” will stay in place through all phases; physical distancing, good hygiene, limiting non-essential travel, and more are the new norm.

Update: the slide deck below is the presentation made by Strang to the business groups. It is missing some slides. It is our understanding that a longer and more detailed presentation is being shown within government.

Here’s the slide deck:

[gview file=”https://www.halifaxexaminer.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Strangs-presentation.pdf”]

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Zane Woodford is the Halifax Examiner’s municipal reporter. He covers Halifax City Hall and contributes to our ongoing PRICED OUT housing series. Twitter @zwoodford

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  1. What is the difference between phase 4 and 5? If “Highest” risk settings are open in phase 4 then what is left to be re-opened?