Atlantic Canada Response to COVID-19 – Updated March 5/21

Atlantic Canada, like elsewhere in the country continue to take additional measures to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Interprovincial travel within Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland & Labrador and Prince Edward Island is now permitted without the requirement to self-isolate for Atlantic Canadian residents who have not travelled outside of the Atlantic provinces for any reason in the past 14 days,  who have not been advised to self-isolate, who do not have COVID-19 symptoms or who are not awaiting COVID-19 test results. This latest step in the reopening process has been dubbed the “Atlantic Bubble”. The COVID Alert App is now available in all Atlantic Provinces.

As of November 27, 2020 individuals travelling to Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland & Labrador and New Brunswick even from within the Atlantic Bubble must self-isolate for 14 days. As of February 10, 2021, individuals travelling to Nova Scotia from New Brunswick and Newfoundland & Labrador must self-isolate for 14 days, unless exempt.


State of Emergency

Nova Scotia has declared a provincial state of emergency until March 21, 2021.

As a  result of the state of emergency:

  • Any workplace or business that is not deemed essential can only remain open so long as social distancing can be maintained;
  • Workplaces must be cleaned and disinfected a minimum of twice daily and employees must follow proper hygiene;
  • Fines will be issued for individuals and businesses who do not practice social distancing or self-isolation. Individuals are subject to $1,000 fines while businesses are subject to $7,500 fines. Multiple fines can be given each day and police can also enforce other offences such as charging higher prices for fair market price goods and services;
  • 14 day self-isolation is required if entering the province from outside of the Atlantic Bubble. Self-isolation must occur alone, and if it occurs in a home with others present, everyone in the home must self-isolate for 14 days as well, with some exceptions for rotational workers, specialized workers and exemptions;
  • Travellers entering Nova Scotia from outside the Atlantic Bubble must also fill out a tracking and self-declaration form;
  • Mandatory testing for rotational workers who work outside of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland & Labrador;
  • Doctors and pharmacists can provide virtual care via phone and video conferencing;
  • Employers cannot require a doctor’s note if an employee must be off work due to COVID-19;
  • Effective November 23, 2020, residents in long-term care facilities may leave the facility for medical and dental appointments and sight-seeing vehicle rides without stops of any kind only;
  • Effective November 23, 2020, full-service restaurants and licensed establishments outside of western and central Halifax Regional Municipality must collect accurate contact information on each patron, including date and time of visit, name and phone number for contact tracing purposes and data must be retained for four weeks;
  • Effective November 26, 2020, no visitors except volunteers and designated caregivers are permitted in long-term care facilities;
  • Effective November 26, 2020, sports teams are restricted to local or regional play only;
  • Effective November 26, 2020, no extracurricular activities between schools;
  • Before and after school programs can have groups of 15 children without maintaining physical distancing but different groups of 15 children must maintain a physical distance;
  • Gatherings of 10 people or less are permitted without physical distancing. Groups need not be exclusive but consistent groups are strongly encouraged;
  • Wearing non-medical masks on public transportation is mandatory;
  • Wearing non-medical masks in most indoor public places is mandatory, with cloth masks available for free at all public libraries and 24 provincial museums;
  • Mandatory masking in common areas of multi-unit residential buildings, such as apartment buildings and condos;
  • Small businesses are being provided with a package of 50 reusable cloth masks;
  • Students have returned to class with safety measures in place;
  • Post-secondary students entering from outside Atlantic Canada are required to undergo  COVID-19 testing and must self-isolate for 14 days;
  • International post-secondary students can return beginning November 3, 2020 but must quarantine for 14 days and additional requirements for institutions;
  • Every adult entering Nova Scotia from outside Atlantic Canada must complete a Nova Scotia Safe Check-in Form before they travel to Nova Scotia, subject to exemptions from self-isolation;
  • Virtual health care options have been extended to December 31, 2020
  • Some restrictions on rotational workers who reside in Nova Scotia but work elsewhere in Canada have been eased;
  • The number of people who can participate in performing arts, sport and organized physical activities without physical distancing hasincreased from 10 to 50. Unorganized or casual games like pickup basketball, as well audiences/spectators must adhere to existing gathering rules. Organizations should have a rollback plan in place should limits need to be reduced again;
  • Gatherings of up to 50 people are permitted with physical distancing maintained
  • Businesses that are too small to maintain physical distancing can have no more than 10 people on their premises at one time; and
  • Recognized businesses and organizations planning outdoor events may have up to 250 people attend with physical distancing rules in place. Indoor events will be limited to 50% capacity to a maximum of 200 people with physical distancing. Certain venues are permitted to have multiple groups of 200 people for indoor events and 250 people for outdoor events so long as detailed and approved plans are in place and measures are taken to separate each group.

The following essential service sectors are exempt from gathering rules:

  • health;
  • food, agri-food and fisheries;
  • transportation, including trucking, rail and transit;
  • construction and manufacturing;
  • IT, telecommunications and critical infrastructure; and
  • public services, such as police, fire and ambulances.

Individual business in these sectors must still maintain social distancing and other public health protocols. The Government of Nova Scotia has created an online tool to assist businesses and non-profits clarify if they may remain open and how they can comply with public health orders and safety requirements.

On May 27, 2020 the Government of Nova Scotia announced that most businesses required to close under the public health order can reopen effective June 5, 2020. For more information regarding Nova Scotia’s plan to reopen, see our article “Most Provinces Announce Strategies to Reopen Economy”, here.

Additional restrictions have been imposed on certain areas to reduce the spread of COVID. The following restrictions apply to the Halifax Regional Municipality up to and including Porters Lake, Enfield, Elmsdale, Lantz, Mount Uniacke and Hubbardsuntil March 27, 2021:

  • restaurants and licensed establishments must stop service by 10:00pm and close by 11:00pm;
  • faith-based gathering can have 150 outdoors or 50% capacity to a maximum of 100 indoors;
  • weddings and funerals  in a faith facility or funeral home can have 150 people outdoors or 50% capacity to a maximum of 100 indoors but there can be no wedding receptions and no funeral visitation or receptions;
  • participants and officials in performing arts and sports can gather in groups of up to 60 people without social distancing for rehearsals, performances, practices and regular competitive schedule;
  • spectators at performing arts and sports are permitted so long as the host facilities have a gathering plan;
  • business and organized club meetings and training can have 25 people with physical distancing except for emergency responders; and
  • residents in long-term care can only have visits from designated caregivers and can only leave for medical appointments or a drive.

The following additional restrictions apply province wide until to March 7, 2021:

  • gatherings in homes can have 10 people total, including the people who live there;
  • general gathering limit is 10 indoors and outdoors;
  • fitness facilities can operate at 75 per cent capacity and must ensure three metres distance between participants during high intensity activities;
  • outdoor fitness classes can operate at full capacity and must ensure three metres distance between participants during high intensity activities;
  • retail and shopping malls can operate at 75 per cent of their capacity; their food courts can remain open with public health measures in place including physical distance between tables; and
  • the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, museums and libraries can reopen at full capacity with physical distancing and other public health measures in place.

Support Programs

The Government of Nova Scotia has put in place various support programs and measures for businesses and individuals:

  • For businesses, the Government will defer payments until June 30, 2020 for all government loans, defer payments until June 30, 2020 for small business renewal fees and have made changes to the Small Business Loan Guarantee Program to defer principal and interest payments until June 30, 2020, and businesses which might not qualify for a loan, government will guarantee the first $100,000. Small businesses who do business with government will be paid within 5 business days instead of 30;
  • Retail and commercial landlords who defer lease payments for the 3 months for businesses that had to close directly due to the public health order will be able to claim losses of up to $5,000 per month if the renting business does not continue operating and must not change locks or seize property of businesses who cannot pay rent if the business closed directly because of COVID-19;
  • A $20 million Small Business Impact Grant will be available to eligible small businesses and social enterprises. Eligible small businesses and social enterprises will receive a grant in the amount of 15% of their revenue from sales either from April 2019 or February 2020, up to a maximum of $5,000. The grant is a flexible, one-time, upfront grant that can be used for any purpose necessary;
  • The COVID-19 Small Business Credit and Support Program will provide a temporary stream for access to credit and cash grants for small businesses with a payroll less than $20,000 in the previous fiscal year and have experienced a decline in revenues from sales of at least 15% in March or at least 30% in April, May or June;
  • Municipalities will be eligible for a $380 million loan program;
  • The 2020 AgriStability interim benefit payment has been increased from 50% to 75% for producers and a 10% discount on the producers’ share of AgriInsurance premiums is also available;
  • Funding is available to farmers to help mitigate the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic under a new COVID-19 Response and Mitigation Program;
  • One-time COVID-19 Response Grant of $750 will be provided to all recipients of Nova Scotia Student Assistance in 2020-2021;
  • Business incubators will receive funding to help new businesses seize opportunities emerging from COVID-19;
  • For workers, a $20 million Worker Emergency Bridge Fund will be available to laid-off workers and self-employed individuals who do not qualify for Employment Insurance. The Government of Nova Scotia will provide a one-time payment of $1,000 to bridge the gap between layoffs and closures and the federal government’s Canada Emergency Response Benefit;
  • Tourism Accommodation Real Property Tax Rebate Program will provide qualified operators with a 25% rebate on payment of 2020-2021 commercial property tax;
  • iPads will be provided to long-term care homes, phones and calling plans will be provided to vulnerable individuals;
  • Rents cannot increase by more than 2% per year and landlords cannot obtain an eviction order for renovations until Feb. 1, 2022 or until the state of emergency is lifted, whichever is sooner and rent increase protections are retroactive to Sept. 1, 2020;
  • A one-time grant of up to $5,000 is available for eligible small businesses in HRM and Hants County;
  • Additional support will be provided to vulnerable individuals through additional funding to prepared meal delivery services, the Unite Way, shelters and soup kitchens, as well as Senior’s Safety Programs and Community Links;
  • Small Business Property Tax Rebate Program provides qualified businesses a one-time rebate of a portion of their paid property taxes;
  • The Essential Health Care Workers Program, a partnership program with the federal government, will provide a bonus of up to $2,000 after a 4-month period beginning March 13, 2020 to eligible health care employees, including full-time, part-time, casual workers as well as cleaning staff who work during the pandemic, including those placed on isolation, quarantine or COVID-19 sick leave; and
  • Eligible businesses, non-profits, charities and social enterprises will be able to access the Small Business Reopening and Support Grant to help them reopen.

State of Emergency

New Brunswick remains a provincial state of emergency.

As a  result of the state of emergency:

  • Canadian residents owning property in New Brunswick or visiting family members in New Brunswick are permitted to enter the province provided they self-isolate for 14 days, or the duration of their visit if it is shorter than 14 days;
  • 14 self-isolation is required if entering the province from outside of the Atlantic Bubble;
  • New Brunswick residents are no longer required to self-isolate when returning from work in another Canadian province or territory;
  • Travellers wishing to enter New Brunswick can access a pre-travel registration service, allowing them to pre-register, verify that they meet the health screening criteria and see what documentation is required to enter the province;
  • Owners and managers of all workplaces are being directed to reduce to critical functions and take every reasonable step required to prevent people who exhibit symptoms or who have travelled internationally in the previous 14 days from entering the workplace;
  • Employers are advised to take precautionary measures to reduce exposure, including practicing good workplace hygiene and allowing workers to work remotely if possible;
  • Owners and occupiers of land are responsible for taking all reasonable steps to prevent social or recreational gatherings;
  • Household bubbles restrictions in place in certain zones;
  • Patients nearing end of their lives will be permitted to designate 2 visitors to provide comfort and support, with only one visitor permitted at a time;
  • Designated support people may be reintroduced in long-term care facilities, as well as off-site visits so long as appropriate guidance is followed;
  • Students arriving from outside of Atlantic Canada to attend public or post-secondary school must self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival and students arriving from outside of Canada must be tested;
  • Temporary foreign workers will be permitted to enter New Brunswick subject to strict public health guidance, including 14-day isolation before beginning work;
  • Workers entering or returning to New Brunswick from outside Atlantic Canada are now subject to modified self-isolation directives for 14 days with the option of returning to regular public health measures by being voluntarily tested for COVID-19 and having negative tests results and no symptoms;
  • Residents in Avignon Municipal Regional County and Listuguj First Nation are allowed to enter the province for  essential day trips only  if they pre-register and New Brunswick residents wishing to travel to these regions on day trips may also do so if they pre-register;
  • Workers from outside the Atlantic Bubble who are returning to New Brunswick must self-isolate for 14 days unless they volunteer to test for COVID-19 and modified self-isolation is no longer possible;
  • Sport tournaments are not permitted;
  • Students travelling to New Brunswick from other Canadian provinces due to formal custody or care agreements must receive weekly COVID-19 test, as do students in K-8 living in Quebec or Nova Scotia who are attending school in New Brunswick;
  • Controlled venues at which seating is offered are required to maintain a record of the names, contact information and time and will be asking patrons for identification;
  • Everyone is prohibited from knowingly approaching within two (2) metres of another person, except members of their household or as needed for work; and
  • Failing to obey the emergency order could result in fines ranging from $292.50 to $10,200.

The Government of New Brunswick has issued guidelines regarding what businesses may remain open and practice social distancing.

On April 24, 2020 the Government of New Brunswick began to implement its recovery plan and has provided a guidance document for the public and businesses. For more information regarding New Brunswick’s plan, see our article “Most Provinces Announce Strategies to Reopen Economy”, here. The reopening plan and alert levels have been reviewed and revised in preparation for a second wave in the fall. Details of the changes to the alert levels can be found here.

On June 10, 2020, amendments to the Emergency Measures Act were introduced that would protect people and corporations providing essential services and taking reasonable precautions from liability for damages during a state of emergency, increase the minimum fine for a corporation failing to comply with a direction, order or requirement under the Act, require organizations providing critical infrastructure services to prepare emergency plans and submit them for review and clarify authority of peace officers. A copy of the proposed amendments can be found here.

Support Programs

Various support programs and measures have been put in place for businesses and individuals.

For businesses:

  • The Government of New Brunswick will, on a case-by-case basis, defer loan and interest repayments for existing business loans for up to 6 months;
  • Small business owners impacted by COVID-19 can apply for working capital loans up to $100,000 through the NB Small Business Emergency Working Capital Program;
  • Opportunities New Brunswick is making working capital loans in excess of $100,000 up to a maximum of $1 million available to employers responding to challenges associated with COVID-19;
  • Funding is available to small to medium sized non-profits in the form of a grant of $500 to $10,000 through the Community investment Fund COVID-19 Relief;
  • Penalties for late payment business property taxes may be waived on a case-by-case basis
  • WorkSafeNB is deferring the collection of assessment premiums for 3 months with zero interest and has also implemented an online tool to assist workplaces evaluate and monitor their activities and responses to COVID-19;
  • A pandemic task force has been established and is vested with decision-making authority about the pandemic response for all aspects of the health-care system;
  • Childcare operators will be provided with $20 per month for each licensed care space until the end of June to assist with cleaning practices;
  • Financial support is being provided to municipal transit systems to cover COVD-19-related costs;
  • The Department of Post-secondary Education, Training and Labour is creating critical sector adjustment committees to work with companies to mitigate the impact of closures; and
  • A job matching platform has been launched to connect employers with workers for positions that, in the past, have been filled by temporary foreign workers

For workers:

  • The Government of New Brunswick will provide a one-time income benefit to workers or self-employed individuals in New Brunswick who have lost their job due to the state of emergency. The one-time payment of $900 will be administered via the Red Cross. To be eligible for this benefit, a person must:
    • have lost their job;
    • have been laid off or be self-employed and have lost all revenue, on or after march 15, 2020 due to the state of emergency in New Brunswick;
    • have earned a minimum of $5,000 (gross) in the last 12 months or in the last calendar year;
    • have lost their primary source of income;
    • have applied or plan to apply for support from the federal government;
    • have no other income; and
    • be 18 years or older;
  • Emergency Bridging Fund for Vulnerable Post-Secondary Students has been established to provide eligible students with a one-time payment of $750. Funds will be distributed by post-secondary institutions;
  • Eligible artists, cultural businesses and organizations who have had their exhibition, project, showcase or performance cancelled due to the pandemic can receive up to $2,000 for an artist presentation on social media;
  • Monthly top-up of approximately $500 for 16 weeks for front-line workers earning $18 per hour or less in  early learning and child care facilities, home support, special care homes, community residences, group homes, homeless shelters and food banks, domestic violence outreach and transition homes will be available;
  • Amendments to the Employment Standards Act which provide employees with  job-protected emergency leave have received royal assent. A copy of Bill 40, An Act to Amend the Employment Standards Act can be found here. COVID-19 Emergency Leave  Regulation – Employment Standards Act outlining the job-protected emergency leave is now in place. The Regulation provides an unpaid job-protected leave, retroactive to March 12, 2020 to:
    • employees under individual medical investigation, supervision, or treatment related to COVID-19;
    • employees who are in quarantine or isolation or subject to a control measure as a result of information or directions related to COVID-19 issued or provided to the public or by a medical officer of health, medical practitioners, nurse practitioner, nurse, Tele-Care, Government of New Brunswick, Government of Canada or a department, agency thereof, or a local government;
    • employees under a direction given by his or her employer in response to a concern of the employer that the employee may expose other individuals in the workplace to COVID-19;
    • employees providing care or support to an individual with whom the employee shares a close family relationship because of a matter related to COVID-19 that concerns that individual, including school or early learning and childcare facility closures; and
    • employees who are directly affected by travel restrictions related to COVID-19 and under the circumstances cannot reasonably be expected to travel back to New Brunswick.
  • Employees intending to take an emergency leave must notify the employer in writing as soon as possible of the intention to take leave, the anticipated commencement date and anticipated duration as well as the purpose for which the leave is taken;
  • Employer must not request any certificate or other proof of entitlement to leave;
  • Leave ends either on a date agreed upon by the employer and employee; the date on which the purpose of the leave no longer exists; or the date on which the Regulation is repealed, but must be extended if the employee notifies the employer that the purpose for taking the leave still exists or that another purpose now exists.
  • Vacation can be interrupted or delayed to take the leave and all documentation and materials received by the employer in relation to the leave is confidential and must not be disclosed  unless the employee consents, the disclosure is made to an individual who needs the record for the performance of their duties or the disclosure is authorized by law; and
  • A copy of the Regulation can be found here.

Public Health Emergency

Newfoundland & Labrador has declared a public health emergency for the province until March 12, 2021.

As a  result of the public health emergency:

  • Gatherings of more than 20 people are prohibited with physical distancing maintained;
  • Indoor gatherings, organized by a recognized business or organization have been expanded to a maximum of 100 people or 50% of the venue’s capacity. Outdoor gatherings, organized by a recognized business or organization have been expanded to a maximum of 100 people. Physical distancing must be maintained and organizers must keep a record of all people in attendance for 2 weeks following the event;
  • Wearing a non-medical mask that covers the nose and mouth in indoor public places is mandatory for people 5 years old and above;
  • Two-household bubbles are permitted with households being able to spend time with one other household, plus 6 additional people;
  • 14 self-isolation is required if entering the province from outside of the Atlantic Bubble;
  • Schools will reopen with safety measures in place on September 9, 2020;
  • Individuals who do not comply with governmental orders could face a fine of $500-$2,500 or jail time and businesses could be fined $5,000 – $50,000; and
  • Tenants cannot be evicted if they have lost income due to COVID-19 and are not able to pay rent.

The following additional measures have been implemented for the province:

  • Visitation in long-term and personal care homes as well as assisted living facilities is reduced to  one essential visitor per resident and group activities are suspended.
  • Gatherings such as funerals, burials, weddings, and religious and cultural ceremonies are limited to 5 people, as long as physical distancing can be maintained.
  • Wakes and visitations are prohibited.
  • Schools and post-secondary educational institutions are closed.
  • Group and team sport and recreation activities are suspended.
  • Group arts and cultural activities are suspended. This includes bands, choirs, dance and music classes.
  • Gym and fitness facilities, yoga studios, swimming pools, tennis and squash facilities, arenas, dance studios and performance spaces are closed.
  • Outdoor activities, including walking, hiking, or snowshoeing, are encouraged as long as physical distancing can be maintained between household bubbles and you are not required to self-isolate for any reason.
  • Outdoor playgrounds can remain open.
  • Private health care clinics are closed, except physician and nurse practitioner in accordance with provincial guidelines.
  • Retail stores that do not provide services essential to life, health or personal safety of individuals and animals are closed to in-person service, but can offer online/telephone sales with delivery or curbside pick-up options.
  • Personal service establishments, including spas, esthetic services, hair salons, body piercing, tattooing and tanning salons, are closed.
  • Animal daycares and grooming facilities can remain open provided that contactless drop off and pick up can happen.
  • Restaurants are closed for in-person dining. Take-out, delivery and drive-thru options are permitted.
  • Bars, lounges, bingo halls and cinemas are closed.

On April 30, 2020 the Government of Newfoundland & Labrador announced its plan for living with COVID-19. A Foundation for Living with COVID-19 includes 5 alert levels with gradual relaxation of public health restrictions determined by the Chief Medical Officer of Health. The province is currently in Alert Level 4 and the Avalon Peninsula is at Alert Level 5. For more information regarding Newfoundland & Labrador’s plan, see our article “Most Provinces Announce Strategies to Reopen Economy”, here.

Support Programs

Newfoundland & Labrador has implemented support programs and measures for businesses and individuals:

  • For businesses, the Government of Newfoundland & Labrador will provide compensation to private sector employers to ensure continuation of pay for employees affected by the 14-day self-isolation requirements and provincial public sector employees affected will continue to be paid as usual;
  • $120 million in funding will be provided to community-based organizations to help groups respond to pressures arising from COVID-19;
  • Waiver and deferral of various fees and easing deadlines for various regulatory deadlines for businesses;
  • Certain tax return filing deadlines have been extended and requests may be made to seek a remission of interest and penalties for businesses which may not be able to comply with tax obligations;
  • Tourism and Hospitality Support Program for eligible small and medium-sized tourism operators will provide a one-time, non-repayable working capital contribution of $5,000 or $10,000 depending on gross sales;
  • Government of Newfoundland & Labrador will provide eligible private sector employers and individuals who are self-employed with up to $500 per week for each employee (up to a combined maximum of $1,000 per week when receiving both federal and provincial funding) who were required to self-isolate for 14 days due to COVID-19 travel restrictions;
  • Effective May 1, 2020, liquor licensing fees for the 2020-2021 fiscal year have been waived; warehousing service fees for microbrewers with annual production of 1,000 hectolitres or less who use Newfoundland & Labrador Liquor Corporation’s distribution network have been waived; a 5% discount on pricing of certain products will be implemented; and an increase in product commission discounts for certain breweries, wineries, distilleries, and cideries has been approved;
  • Students Supporting Communities Program providing a $3,500 grant to organizations that enables them to hire students to help seniors and other vulnerable groups facing social isolation during COVID-19;
  • Deferral of loan payments under the Innovation and Business Investment Corporation’s Business Investment Fund for eligible businesses for 6 months;
  • Salary support for up to 6 positions may be considered for eligible commercial Research and Development projects;
  • Eligible costs will be covered up to 75% for eligible project applications under Research and Development Commercial Business and Development Support for certain applications;
  • Mining, mineral exploration and quarry industries will receive assistance in the form of deferral of rental and fee payments associated with land tenure, waiver of water use charge payments related to mineral exploration and waiver of mineral assessment expenditure requirements for mineral licenses for one year;
  • Residential, commercial and general service customers including businesses and other organizations whose electricity is based on Holyrod fuel costs with a one-time credit on their bills;
  • Essential Worker Support Program will provide eligible individuals with a one-time payment who work in essential services through their employer;
  • A 25% rebate is available for renovation projects for principal residences up to a maximum of $10,000 (based on a $40,000 project) and a $10,000 rebate is available for new home construction on homes valued up to $350,000 before HST;
  • For customers who require flexible electricity bill payments, interest on overdue accounts for residential and general services customers will be waived for a period of 15 months beginning June 1, 2020;
  • Timelines for corporations to call annual meetings have been extended and filing of corporate annual returns may be deferred;
  • The Public Procurement Agency has posted a directory of PPE suppliers on its website to assist businesses and organizations with the ongoing demand for PPE;
  • Amendments have been made to the Credit Union Regulations, 2009 to allow credit unions to avail themselves of the Canada Emergency Business Account program;
  • Amendments to the Labour Standards Act have been made to provide for an unpaid leave of absence for employees who are unable to work for the following reasons:
    • Employer directs the employee not to work due to COVID-19; Employee has returned from travel and must self-isolate;
    • Employee is under medical investigation, supervision or treatment for COVID-19;
    • Employee is acting in accordance with a public health directive;
    • Employee needs to provide care to a person for a reason related to COVID-19;
    • Employee is directly affected by travel restrictions and cannot reasonably be expected to travel back to the province; or
  • Employers may require employees to provide evidence reasonable in the circumstances at a time that is reasonable in the circumstances of entitlement to the leave but must not require employees to provide a certificate from a medical or nurse practitioner. Amendments to the Labour Standards Act are retroactive to March 14, 2020. Full text of the COVID-19 Pandemic Response Act can be found here;
  • The period of time an employee can be temporarily laid off until the Labour Standards Act has been extended from 13 weeks in a consecutive 20-week period, to 26 weeks in a consecutive 33-week period and the time period for making a complain to the Director of Labour Standards has been temporarily extended to 12 months. Both extensions are retroactive to March 18, 2020 and will end September 18, 2020. A copy of the order can be found here; and
  • Amendments to the Shops’ Closing Regulations have been made to allow select stores that are not exempt, but are deemed as services essential to the life, health or personal safety of individuals and animals the option to open for business on Good Friday if they wish. Employees will not be required to work but those who do will be entitled to double pay for hours worked in accordance with section 17 of the Labour Standards Act. A copy of the amended regulation can be found here.

Public Health Emergency

Prince Edward Island has declared a public health emergency and remains in a state of emergency.

As a result of the public health emergency and state of emergency:

  • Screening protocols are in place at borders;
  • 14 self-isolation is required if entering the province from outside of the Atlantic Bubble;
  • Fines may be imposed on anyone who does not comply with self-isolation measures:
    • $1,000 for first offence;
    • $2,000 for second offence; and
    • $10,000. for a third or subsequent offence;
  • Those self-isolating must remain on their own property when outside and those living in apartment buildings must stay on building property while outside;
  • Family members of seasonal residents who are Canadian citizens or permanent residents can be pre-approved to travel to Prince Edward Island but must still self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival;
  • Up to three cohorts of 50 people may gather for events such as worship services, concerts and sporting events, subject to an approved occupational plan ensuring physical distancing and separate controlled entrances and exits, as well as designated washrooms for each cohort;
  • Non-medical masks or face coverings are mandatory in all indoor public places;
  • Effective October 1, 2020, individuals who work outside of the Atlantic Bubble (within Canada) who are required to work outside of their home upon return to PEI can apply to work-isolate, via self-declaration form;
  • Residents who work outside of the Atlantic Bubble can apply to work-isolate upon their return if they undergo COVID-19 testing;
  • Masks are mandatory for entry to any Health PEI buildings;
  • Visitation to long-term care facilities and nursing homes is permitted with restrictions;
  • Members of the same household may gather indoors with up to 5 other people from different households; and
  • Members of the same household may gather outdoors with up to 10 other individuals from different households.

Prince Edward Island has also issued guidelines regarding essential and non-essential services.

On April 28, 2020 the Government of Prince Edward Island announced its plan to ease public heath restrictions. Renew PEI, Together is a 4-phase plan which began  May 1, 2020 with gradual lifting of restrictions on outdoor gatherings and activities, outdoor construction and services, non-urgent health care and  health care providers, progressing to relaxation of restrictions on indoor gatherings, recreational activities, retail and indoor dining services . For more information regarding Prince Edward Island’s plan, see our article “Most Provinces Announce Strategies to Reopen Economy”, here.

The following additional public health measures have been put in place until March 14, 2021:

  • Each household can identify up to 6 consistent individuals to gather with indoors or outdoors with physical distancing;
  • Organized gatherings, such as concerts, worship services and movie theatres, can operate with a total of 50 people with physical distancing;
  • Weddings and funerals can include up to 50 people, plus officiants but no receptions are permitted;
  • Gyms/fitness facilitiesmay operate at 50% capacity with additional cleaning;
  • Museums and libraries may operate at up to 50% capacity;
  • Rehearsals, individual and team practices are permitted in accordance with gathering limits but games, tournaments and competitions are not permitted;
  • Retail stores, markets and craft fairs may operate at 50% capacity provided entrances and exits are monitored; 
  •  In-room dining is permitted with gathering limit of 50 people with a maximum table size of 6 and a 10:00pm closing time
  • Personal services may operate on an appointment basis, provided a non-medical mask is worn by staff and patrons at all times;  and
  • Long term care residents can have up to 3 partners in care and  6 designated visitors.

Support Programs

The Government of Prince Edward Island has implemented various support programs and measures for businesses and individuals.

For businesses:

  • Scheduled loan payments for clients of Finance PEI, Island Investment Development Inc. and PEI Century Fund have been deferred for 3 months;
  • The Commercial Lease Rent Deferral Program has been established and provides eligible landlords who defer rent payments from commercial tenants for 3 months with financial assistance of up to $50,000 per landlord and $15,000 per tenant if the deferred rent can’t be recovered;
  • The Emergency Working Capital Financing has been put in place for small businesses through a capital loan of up to $100,000;
  • The Emergency Relief – Worker Assistance Program has been set up to provide registered private sector businesses with workers who have experienced a reduction of at least 8 hours per week during the two-week period of March 16-29, 2020 with a maximum of $250 per week for each worker that experienced the reduction;
  • The Business Adaptation Advice Program has been implemented to cover the entire cost up to $2,500, for businesses and entrepreneurs to hire a professional to provide advice and support on how to adapt or recover from the impacts of the pandemic.  Professional services may include human resources, financial planning, IT and marketing;
  • Tourism PEI is waiving fees for the 2021 season to support tourism operators impacted by COVID-19;
  • COVID-19 Emergency Support Fund for Cultural, Heritage and Sport Organizations will be available for sport organizations negatively impacted by COVID-19;
  • The Province has partnered with Holland College to provide free online learning in marketing, human resources, social media, project management and other fields;
  • Community organizations will be provided with gift cards that can be used at Loblaws stores through the Community Champions Initiative;
  • An online portal to assist residents and businesses with the impacts of COVID-19, including the need for medical supplies, virtual care services and idea sharing, called PEI Sourced Solutions is being launched;
  • The deadline for the Jobs for Youth Program has been extended to April 30, 2020 to allow employers to apply for wage subsidies;
  • The Team Seafood Program encouraging youth to participate in fishing and aquaculture will support 250 new placements;
  • Private sector wage subsidies through the Employment Development Agency have been increased from 50% to 75% of wages;
  • COVID-19 Agricultural Labour Support Initiative will connect those interested with working on a farm with agricultural businesses with job openings;
  • Prince Edward Island Fish Emergency Loan Program will provide loans of up to $25,000 at 4% interest over a 5-year term to Island harvesters with the principle deferred for the first 18 months;
  • Interest Relief Program will provide eligible fish harvesters with up to 12 months of interest relief and service debt costs on a maximum of $250 million at an average interest rate of 5%;
  • COVID-19 Workspace Adaptation Assistance Fund will provide small businesses with up to $2,000 to purchase and install protective measures;
  • The Post-Secondary Employment Program will support 320 new positions;
  • $50,000,000 in tourism assistance loan facility through Finance PEI has been announced with maximum financing of up to $1,000,000.00 at 4% interest available for working capital with principal and interest payments deferred for 18 months;
  • Interest relief for existing loans to tourism business for up to 18 months;
  • $1,000,000.00 for expanded marketing for the tourism industry;
  • Waiver of licensing, inspection and Tourism PEI advertising fees for the 2020 operating season;
  • Families returning to work will receive $75 per child per week until June 26 to help with child care costs as the province reopens;
  • Non-profits that have received funding from Tourism PEI and/or ACOA for events that have been cancelled as a result of COVID-19 will be fully compensated for all eligible expenses;
  • The Telework Adaptation Fund offers up to $2,500 to eligible businesses and organizations to help ensure employees have what they need to work from home at least 2 or 3 days per week. Funding can be used  for developing a remote work plan, buying office equipment or subscribing to online business platforms;
  • The COVID-19 Strategic Fund for Agriculture which provides $750,000.00 to help commodities and small processes adapt to the pandemic has been announced, as well as enhancements to the Farm Team Student Bursary to address labour challenges; and
  • Truckers are eligible to rent rooms from Rodd Royalty Inn and Suites for a reduced rate of $20.00 per night.

For workers:

  • The Emergency Contingency Fund provides workers, including self-employed workers and small businesses impacted by COVID-19, including Emergency Income Relief of up to $500 per week for self-employed individuals;
  • The Employee Gift Card Program has been established to provide $100 Sobeys gift cards to employees living and working on Prince Edward Island who have been laid off as a result of COVID-19. Employers can apply to obtain the gift cards if they have issued lay-off notices to 1 or more employees due to COVID-19 between March 13 and 31, 2020;
  • A $1 million Temporary Rental Assistance Benefit is available and will provide $1,000 per household to help cover the cost of rent for a three-month period for those renting who have seen an unexpected loss of income due to COVID-19. Individuals will be eligible for this benefit if they are currently receiving or applying for Employment Insurance or the Canada Emergency Response Benefit due to COVID-19; are residents of Prince Edward Island; and are not currently receiving rental support;
  • The COVID-19 Income Support Program has been established to assist individuals with bridging the gap between loss of income and Employment Insurance benefits or the Canada Emergency Response Benefit by providing a one-time payment of $750 to eligible individuals. Eligible individuals are those who as of March 13, 2020, have lost their job or have been laid off, have had Employment Insurance benefits expire and do not yet have a job to return to, or who are self-employed and have lost all revenues through self-employment. Individuals must be:
    • 18 years of age or older;
    • be a resident of Prince Edward Island as of December 31, 2019;
    • have earned a minimum of $5,000 gross earnings in the last 12 months;
    • lost their primary source of income because of COVID-19 and have no other income; and
    • have applied for federal benefits;
  • The COVID-19 Special Situations Fund has been established and provides up to $1,000 to those who have experienced urgent income loss as a result of COVID-19 and are not eligible for other federal and provincial funding support;
  • Farm Team Program will provide students returning to post-secondary studies in the fall with a $2,000 bursary and students returning to high school with a $1,000 bursary to those who choose to work in the agricultural industry this summer;
  • Temporary wage top up of $1,000 for workers employed by an entity providing essential services, who have been working through the pandemic and may less than $3,000 per 4-week period;
  • Prince Edward Island Emergency Payment for Workers will provide a $500 payment for workers and self-employed persons who have completely lost their income or had hours reduced by at least 12 hours per week from December 7 to December 21, 2020;
  • Prince Edward Island Emergency Payment for Workers will provide a $500.00 payment for workers and self-employed persons who have completely lost their income or had hours reduced by at least 12 hours a week from February 28, 2021 to March 14, 2021;
  • Provincial property tax and fee payments have been deferred until December 31, 2020, as have property tax assessment appeal deadlines; and
  • There is moratorium on evictions until the end of June and enforcement of eviction orders is suspended until courts resume regular operations.

We will continue to update our clients with information as soon as it becomes available. If you have any questions about this topic, other COVID-19 related questions, or would like assistance with developing and/or reviewing pandemic plans, please do not hesitate to contact a Mathews Dinsdale lawyer, or refer to the Firm’s other COVID-19 website resources.

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