Rising COVID-19 case numbers across Atlantic Canada have led governments to announce additional measures to combat the Omicron variant. These measures range from enhanced masking measures and capacity restrictions to mandatory isolation for all visitors. These restrictions will likely remain in place into January 2022.
Although capacity restrictions are concerning, most retailers are thankful that they can remain open during the holiday season.
Capacity Restrictions for Retail and Restaurants:
Beginning December 22, 2021, Nova Scotia’s COVID-19 restrictions have been strengthened.
- Retail (including fitness facilities and retailers who offer music lessons) is now limited to 50 per cent capacity with physical distancing, based on the building occupancy code.
- Movie theatres are limited to 25 per cent capacity to a maximum of 50 people. Movie theatre patrons must go to a designated area for eating and drinking.
- Personal services like salons can operate at maximum capacity, with physical distancing but cannot offer services that require removing masks.
- Restaurants can operate at 50 percent capacity with physical distancing between tables (maximum of 10 people per table). Dine-in service must stop at 11pm and the dining area must close at midnight. Drive-thru and delivery can operate past midnight.
- There is no change to proof of vaccination rules (eg: required for restaurants but not for retail).
- Physical distancing and mask wearing will be strictly enforced. Inspectors expect businesses to update and follow their operational plans. There will be specific focus from inspectors on ensuring that operational plans include use of COVID-19 related signage in prevalent spots through a business.
- These restrictions will remain in place until at least January 12, 2022. See press release.
Prince Edward Island:
Capacity Restrictions for Retail and Restaurants:
Beginning December 18, 2021, PEI’s COVID-19 restrictions have been strengthened.
- Retail, cinemas and fitness facilities are now limited to 50 per cent capacity with physical distancing.
- Restaurants are limited to physical distancing between tables (maximum of 10 people per table) and 50 per cent capacity.
- People arriving in PEI must be tested for COVID-19. It is strongly recommended that fully vaccinated people traveling to the province isolate for four days (until receiving their negative day 4 test).
- Mask requirements have been enhanced. Masks must always be worn indoors (exemptions permitted) unless eating and drinking. Outside of close social groups, masks are required outdoors when two metres of physical distancing cannot be maintained.
- Physical distancing and mask wearing will be strictly enforced while COVID-19 related signage is expected to be prevalent in businesses.
- Individual gatherings are limited to a ‘steady 10’.
- These restrictions will remain in place until January 8, 2022.
- See Temporary COVID-19 Measures.
- The Temporary COVID-19 Measures coincide with the Mandatory Order sections related to additional masking requirements: Section 18 (Page 12) and rules related to the 50% capacity restrictions: Sections 23 (Page 13), 27 (Page 17) and 29 (Page 17).
In the government’s press release, the Chief Medical Officer of Health noted that retailers should have ‘floor markers’ to help create physical distancing. RCC immediately contacted Public Health who confirmed that such specific wording is an overstep. Retailers already have COVID-19 operational plans, which feature numerous actions (including signage) to combat COVID-19 and keep customers / employees safe. However, these plans may not include floor markers.
RCC has received confirmation from a senior official with PEI Public Health of the following:
- although the government will not be re-issuing the press release.
- public health inspectors will not require stores to have ‘floor markers’ in place, so long as they are satisfied with the COVID-19 measures that are in place.
- There is no reference to ‘floor markers’ in the mandatory order.
Newfoundland and Labrador:
Isolation Requirements for Travelers and Capacity Restrictions for Restaurants, Cinemas, Fitness and Performance Spaces:
- Beginning December 19, 2021, anyone who is fully vaccinated and deemed a close contact of a positive COVID-19 case will need to isolate for seven days.
- As of December 21, 2021, all fully vaccinated travellers to the province will need to isolate for five days upon arrival.
- As of December 20, 2021, fitness facilities, cinemas, and performance spaces are reduced to 50 per cent capacity. Restaurants can operate at 75 per cent capacity with physical distancing in place.
- See press release.
Government Clarifies Proof of Vaccination Option:
Grocery retailers no longer have the option of requiring proof of vaccination for customers to enter the grocery retail store. The government received a great deal of backlash on its original decision to allow this choice. It should be noted that since this original decision was made, grocery retailers have continually stated that they have no intention of implementing proof of vaccination for customers. Other retailers will continue to have the choice to implement proof of vaccination requirements for customers. See press release.
Government Enhances Mask Wearing Rules:
On December 13, 2021, the New Brunswick government enhanced its mask wearing rules as part of its Winter Action Plan and its mandatory order. The language regarding mask wearing obligations is now more direct. There is an increased onus on everyone (without an exemption) to wear masks both indoors and outdoors, where physical distancing cannot be maintained. There is also clarity regarding a business’ obligation to enforce mask wearing. The enforcement of mask wearing still comes down to a retailer demonstrating ‘best efforts’ to an inspector of the steps taken to enforce customer mask wearing while providing the customer with service options (eg: curbside pickup).
All of Atlantic Canada:
Each Atlantic government has tasked inspectors to ensure that retailers and quick service restaurants (QSRs) are strictly following / enforcing mask wearing and physical distancing rules. In addition, inspectors want to see COVID-19 signage in place to remind customers and employees of their COVID-19 safety obligations.
RCC will continue to work with Atlantic governments to ensure that COVID-19 related health measures do not needlessly impede the ability of retailers to conduct business.
For questions or more information contact
Director, Government Relations (Atlantic)