Coronavirus (COVID-19): restrictions and guidance
Public health directives that everyone in Nova Scotia needs to follow to help contain the spread of COVID-19.
On this page
- Self-isolation requirements
- Exemptions from self-isolation
- Compassionate exceptions from self-isolation
- Specialized worker exceptions from self-isolation
- Gathering limits
- Exemptions to gathering limits
- Business and service restrictions
- Employers exempt from gathering limits and social distancing
You’re legally required to self-isolate if you:
- have been referred by 811 for COVID-19 testing
- are waiting for your COVID-19 test results
- have tested positive for COVID-19
- have been told by Public Health that you may have been exposed and need to self-isolate, even if you have tested negative for COVID-19
- have travelled outside Atlantic Canada and are returning to or entering Nova Scotia, even if you don't have symptoms
Travel outside Atlantic Canada
Most people entering Nova Scotia from outside the province must self-isolate for 14 days (unless you’ve only travelled within Atlantic Canada in the past 14 days). That means you need to go straight home and stay there. You can have someone else deliver food or anything else you need.
Fishers, temporary foreign workers and offshore workers
Fishers entering the province to board a fishing vessel or get supplies must self-isolate for 14 days when they arrive, unless they can self-isolate on the fishing vessel for 14 consecutive days before leaving the vessel. They can’t leave the boat for any reason, including to get supplies. They can dock and have supplies delivered.
Temporary foreign workers can enter the province, but they must self-isolate upon arrival for 14 days. If they can, they should self-isolate onsite where they are planning to work.
Offshore workers can enter the province for work, but they must self-isolate upon arrival for 14 days.
Individuals engaged in a legal proceeding (including the accused, victim, witness or party in the proceeding) can enter the province to participate in the legal proceeding, but they must self-isolate for the period of time they’re in the province other than when they’re in court and follow social distancing guidelines.
Canadian Armed Forces
Members of the Canadian Armed Forces and their families can enter the province to house hunt without self-isolating, but family members must self-isolate once they move to Nova Scotia or for any other visit to the province and follow social distancing guidelines.
Working outside the province (domestic rotational workers)
Individuals who live in Nova Scotia and travel to work in another Canadian province or territory on a regular schedule (like Alberta oil workers) must self-isolate for the period of time they’re in the province (up to 14 days). Domestic rotational workers need to follow the Health Protection Act Order and the Directive Under the Authority of the Chief Medical Officer of Health – COVID-19 Exceptions for Domestic Rotational Workers (PDF 483 KB).
Domestic rotational workers can:
- interact with people who live in their household without physical distancing, unless rotational workers become unwell (household members don’t need to self-isolate unless they become unwell)
- spend time outside on their own property
- go for a drive
- go for a walk, run, hike, bike or ATV ride off their property (if they encounter people from outside their household they must wear a mask and maintain a distance of 2 metres)
- visit a park, beach, or other outdoor public space (if they encounter people from outside their household they must wear a mask and maintain a distance of 2 metres)
- spend time at their cabin or vacation home (or a rental location) in Nova Scotia, following the same rules they would at home
- drop off and pick up household members at school, work or recreational activities without getting out of their vehicle
- use no-contact pickup options for groceries or other items purchased online without getting out of their vehicle
- visit a drive-in theatre without getting out of their vehicle
- go through a drive-through, like at a restaurant or bank
- attend necessary (urgent and routine) medical appointments – this includes appointments with physicians and nurse practitioners, dentists, optometrists and other regulated health professionals where in-person treatment is required
In the 14 days after they arrive in Nova Scotia, rotational workers can’t:
- enter public places (like schools, grocery stores, shopping malls, banks, religious institutions, restaurants and bars)
- attend indoor or outdoor gatherings
- visit people from outside their household
- let people from outside their household visit them on their property or in their home
- volunteer or work in any way that puts them in contact with people outside their household
How to self-isolate
Learn more: when to self-isolate and how to self-isolate.
Exemptions from self-isolation
Some people are exempt from the self-isolation requirement. Even if you’re exempt, you still need to follow social distancing guidelines. You need to monitor your symptoms closely, and self-isolate if you start to feel sick.
People who are exempt from the self-isolation requirement include:
- Atlantic Canadian residents who travel within Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador (Atlantic travel bubble)
- people from outside Atlantic Canada who have already self-isolated for 14 days in another Atlantic Canadian province before they enter Nova Scotia
- people visiting Nova Scotia to facilitate child sharing between parents under a joint custody order or agreement if both the children and the person bringing them don’t have symptoms of COVID-19
- people visiting Nova Scotia for essential health services, plus 1 support person travelling with them
workers who are essential to the movement of people and goods, and who must enter Nova Scotia as part of their work requirements (not for personal reasons or other types of work)
- healthy trade and transportation workers who are employed in the movement of goods or people across the Nova Scotia border, including truck drivers, crew, maintenance and operational workers on any plane, train or food production plants
- Canadian Armed Forces and Canadian Defence Team personnel, Coast Guard, Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), Canadian Border Services Agency and Canadian Security Intelligence Service
- first responders, including police, fire and Emergency Health Services (EHS) paramedic workers
Workers exempt from the self-isolation requirement should follow social distancing guidelines as much as they can and also follow public health directives. They need to monitor their symptoms closely, and self-isolate if they start to feel sick.
Compassionate exceptions from self-isolation
People from outside Atlantic Canada can request an exception to the self-isolation requirement for compassionate purposes. Exceptions will be considered for:
- visiting an immediate family member who is nearing end of life
- attending a funeral or service (like a burial or celebration of life) for an immediate family member; exceptions are not granted to attend public visitations
If you’re granted an exception, you’ll be allowed to do that specific activity, but you must self-isolate for the period of time you’re in the province (up to 14 days) other than when you’re visiting the immediate family member or attending the service. Even if you have an exception, you still need to follow social distancing guidelines. You need to monitor your symptoms closely, and self-isolate if you start to feel sick.
If you don't need a compassionate exception and are travelling to Nova Scotia from outside Atlantic Canada, you need to complete a Nova Scotia Safe Check-in Form to enter Nova Scotia.
Send your compassionate exception request to email@example.com and include the following travel details:
- name of travellers
- purpose of travel
- confirmation that the need to travel is urgent
- where you’re travelling from and how you’ll get to Nova Scotia
- where you plan to stay in Nova Scotia
- any travel within the 2-week period before you visit Nova Scotia
- any known exposure to COVID-19 for all travellers
- your plan for self-isolation during your stay, including details about how food and supplies will be delivered, how you’ll maintain a physical distance of 2 metres (6 feet) from others where you’re staying (if applicable) and how you’ll follow Public Health directives and guidelines
If your exception request is for visiting an immediate family member who is nearing end of life, your request also needs to include:
- written confirmation (or email) from your immediate family member’s care team that your family member is near end-of-life and that you have been given permission to visit, if applicable
- name of the facility where you’ll be visiting your immediate family member, if applicable
- confirmation that your relative’s home care provider is aware that you’ll be visiting your family member from outside of Atlantic Canada, if applicable
If your exception request is for attending a funeral or service for an immediate family member, your request also needs to include:
- written confirmation that the funeral is for an immediate family member (you need an obituary or funeral announcement or a letter from the funeral home confirming date of service and your relationship to deceased)
- details about the service (for example, how many people are expected to attend, if the service is open to the public or invitation only)
If permission is granted, you will receive a confirmation email indicating approval and the conditions. When you arrive in Nova Scotia you need to show this document to border officials.
Specialized worker exceptions from self-isolation
Workers from outside Atlantic Canada can receive an exception to the self-isolation requirement for urgent and critical on-site work that requires specialized skills unavailable in Atlantic Canada. This includes, for example:
- people who are essential to the inspection, installation or repair of specialized equipment
- people who are essential to the maintenance and repair of critical infrastructure
- people who are essential to the completion of large construction projects
Specialized workers are allowed to work and travel to and from the workplace, but must self-isolate for the period of time they’re in the province (up to 14 days) other than when they’re working. Specialized workers need to follow the Health Protection Act Order and the Directive Under the Authority of the Chief Medical Officer of Health – COVID-19 Exceptions for Specialized Workers (PDF 90 KB).
Before each trip to Nova Scotia, specialized workers from outside Atlantic Canada need to complete a Nova Scotia Safe Check-in Form.
When you arrive in Nova Scotia you need show that you submitted the form by providing the confirmation email you receive after submitting the form to border officials.
Businesses located in Nova Scotia that have more than 10 specialized workers entering Nova Scotia from outside Atlantic Canada within a 1 month period, need to provide details about their Workplace COVID-19 Prevention plan to firstname.lastname@example.org before specialized workers travel to the province.
Gathering limits apply to social events, faith gatherings, sports and physical activity, weddings, funerals and arts and culture events like theatre performances, dance recitals, festivals and concerts. Gathering limits also apply to businesses and organizations that run social events, faith gatherings, weddings, funerals, arts and culture events or sports events.
You need to follow gathering limits, unless your group has an exemption identified in the Health Protection Act Order (PDF).
The following gathering restrictions are in place:
- gathering limit without social distancing - you can form a close social group of up to 10 people without social distancing; you're not required to be exclusive but are strongly encouraged to maintain a consistent group (people shouldn't gather in random or spontaneous groups of 10)
- indoor gathering limit with social distancing for social events, spectators of sports and performing arts, organized physical activity, faith gatherings, weddings, funerals, arts and culture events, festivals and special events that are run by a recognized business or organization - 50% of the venue’s capacity up to 200 people maximum indoors
- outdoor gathering limit with social distancing for social events, spectators of sports and performing arts, organized physical activity, faith gatherings, weddings, funerals, arts and culture events, festivals and special events that are run by a recognized business or organization - 250 people maximum outdoors
- gathering limit with social distancing for social events, spectators of sports and performing arts, faith gatherings, weddings, funerals, and arts and culture events that are not run by a recognized business or organization (like a family event in the backyard) - 50 people maximum indoors and outdoors
- gathering limit with social distancing for sports (spectators and participants) and unorganized physical activity that are not run by a recognized business or organization - 50 people maximum indoors and outdoors (participants can have incidental close contact with each other if it’s infrequent, brief and can’t be avoided)
- gathering limit for businesses and organizations that can’t maintain a physical distance of 2 metres (6 feet) because their physical space is too small - 10 customers or clients maximum without social distancing (keep as much social distancing as possible)
Exemptions to gathering limits
The only exemptions to gathering limits are employers exempt from gathering limits and social distancing.
Business and service restrictions
Business and service restrictions are in place to limit the spread of COVID-19.
Businesses and organizations permitted to reopen
Businesses, organizations and health professions that were required to close under the Health Protection Act Order can reopen if they follow the Health Protection Act Order and their sector-specific plans. They also need to have a Workplace COVID-19 Prevention Plan.
Childcare and education
- Before-school programs and after-school programs can open with up to 15 children in each group without maintaining a physical distance of two metres (6 feet). Different groups of 15 must maintain physical distance. Programs need to follow the Health Protection Act Order and their sector-specific plans. Sector-specific plans should follow guidance from Public Health.
Healthcare and continuing care
- Long-term care facilities can resume outdoor visitation with up to 5 visitors per resident. Visits must be scheduled.
- Long-term care facilities can resume indoor visitation with 1 visitor at a time per resident.
- Nova Scotia Health Authority and IWK Health Centre are reopening services and changing visitor restrictions.
Religious groups should consider holding services virtually (online or through community TV). They can also hold outdoor “drive-in” services if they follow social distancing guidelines, including:
- staff must be present to make sure everyone is following the restrictions
- vehicles must be parked 2 metres (6 feet) apart in the parking lot, with the engine turned off
- only people from 1 household unit should be in each car
- everyone must stay in their car through the entire service
- the building, including washrooms, must stay closed to the congregation
- microphones can’t be shared between staff
- nothing can be passed out to the congregation (like books, programs, food, beverages and collection plates)
- people can’t exchange items between cars
Temporary Foreign Workers
- Temporary Foreign Workers who can come Nova Scotia under federal rules must follow the conditions of the Health Protection Act order (like: self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival to the province).
Employers exempt from gathering limits and social distancing
Employers exempt from gathering limits and social distancing requirements include:
- organizations funded by the Department of Community Services that are covered under the Homes for Special Care Act and the Children and Family Services Act
- long-term care facilities licensed under the Homes for Special Care Act
- home care agencies funded under the Homemaker Services Act
- Independent Living Support, Supported Apartment and Supervised Apartment Programs funded by the Department of Community Services
- hospitals and health authorities
- jails, prisons and community-based correctional services
- unlicensed child care facilities
- homeless shelters
- Emergency Medical Care Inc.
- people providing care under the Self-Managed Care Program, Supportive Care Program or Caregiver Benefit Program
- businesses who provide, service or repair medical equipment like wheelchairs, beds and home oxygen equipment
- food production plants
- fishing vessels
municipal entities and their contractors:
- police and fire services
- municipal utilities (water, wastewater, stormwater)
- maintenance of utilities and municipal facilities
- road maintenance and repair
- municipal information and communications technology (ICT) systems and services
- public transit
- solid waste, garbage and litter collection and disposal
- urban forestry
- municipal logistic, distribution, storage, inventory and repair services
- private not-for-profit community transportation providers
provincial entities and their contractors:
- government building construction and repair
- road maintenance and repair
Information for international and interprovincial travellers, including travel restrictions and the self-declaration process for entering Nova Scotia. Learn more: travel and travelling to Nova Scotia.