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N.S. declares state of emergency in response to COVID-19

Sunday, March 22nd 2020, 1:10 pm - People cannot gather in groups of more than 5; police authorized to enforce social distancing, self-isolation

Nova Scotia declared a state of emergency Sunday morning in the face of COVID-19, limiting gatherings to no more than five people.

The provincial government held a press conference today in Halifax to provide an update.

Police are now authorized to enforce orders under the Health Protection Act related to self-isolation and social distancing, and can issue summary offence tickets for people who do not adhere to those orders.

RELATED: COVID-19: Updates, resources, and 'flattening the curve'

Justice Minister Mark Furey said the number of people not adhering to social distancing left the province with "no choice" but to authorize police enforcement.

Effective immediately, individuals can be fined $1,000 for each violation of the Health Protection Act. Businesses and corporations can be fined $7,500 for each violation, and for each subsequent day.

Individuals and businesses can be fined on multiple days if they fail to comply with the law.

Stephen McNeil/CBC Stephen McNeil announced Sunday that Nova Scotia is declaring a state of emergency in response to COVID-19. (CBC)

Premier Stephen McNeil said the measures may appear harsh but they are "necessary."

"We are dealing with a deadly virus, and this behaviour is unacceptable," he said.

People can still leave their homes to get fresh air or pick up items at the grocery store or pharmacy, but families should identify one person to make the trip to minimize how many people are out in public.

All provincial parks are closed. Visitors will be considered trespassers and their vehicles can be towed.

ANYONE ENTERING N.S. MUST SELF ISOLATE

Effective 6 a.m. Monday, Nova Scotia's borders will be tightened. Anyone who has travelled outside the province will need to self-isolate for 14 days upon returning.

McNeil said this will be managed at entry points throughout the province: the ferries in Digby and North Sydney, the airports in Halifax and Sydney, and the land border with New Brunswick.

Exceptions will be made for people providing essential services, like trucking, health care and law enforcement.

"For those who are not essential service and want to enter our province for social purposes, please stay home," McNeil said.

28 CASES TOTAL

The province also announced seven new presumptive cases, all related to travel or close contact. So far, Nova Scotia has reported 28 confirmed and presumptive cases in total.

Dr. Robert Strang, the province's chief public health officer, said although there has been no community spread in Nova Scotia, he expects it will happen soon.

Those affected in Nova Scotia range in age from late teens to mid-70s. The cases are spread throughout Nova Scotia.

A lab at the QEII in Halifax is now able to report positive and negative tests as confirmed, meaning tests no longer have to be sent to a national lab in Winnipeg.

Thumbnail courtesy of CBC.

The story originally appeared on CBC.ca

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