In the recent days, Atlantic Canada, like elsewhere in the country have started to take more significant measures to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
In Nova Scotia, all public schools are closed until April 6, 2020, all licensed childcare providers are closed until April 6, 2020, March Break camps are cancelled and casinos are closed, all provincially operated museums and the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia are closed.
The Nova Scotia Government has taken additional steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by reducing the limit on gatherings from 50 people to 5 people or less as of March 23, 2020, except for certain groups such as grocery stores, gas stations, pharmacies construction sites, health care services, community services, criminal justice services and law enforcement.
Effective March 19, 2020, the following closures are in place:
- Restaurants are restricted to take-out and delivery only;
- Drinking establishments, craft taprooms, and winery and distillery tasting rooms are closed; and
- Private liquor stores, craft breweries, wineries and distilleries are permitted to sell product from their storefronts.
Additional measures now include:
- Doctors and pharmacists in Nova Scotia now have options for virtual care via phone and video conferencing; and
- Nova Scotia employers cannot require a doctor’s note if an employee must be off work due to COVID-19.
All personal service and fitness establishments such as salons and gyms are now shut down.
As of March 21, 2020, dentists are no longer able to practice in their offices unless necessary to perform an emergency dental procedure.
On March 23, 2020, Nova Scotia declared a provincial state of emergency to help contain the spread of COVID-19 until noon on April 5, 2020. The following measures have been implemented as a result of the state of emergency:
- Any workplace or business that is not deemed essential can remain open as 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 $1,000.00 fines while businesses are subject to $7,500.00 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;
- Anyone entering Nova Scotia will be stopped, questioned and must self-isolate for 14 days;
- Nova Scotians should not leave the Province unless essential, with the exception of healthy workers in trades and transportation sectors who move goods and people and health people going to work such as health care workers and those travelling for essential health services; and
- Provincial parks, beaches and tourist attractions are closed.
As of March 24, 2020, regulated health professionals may only stay open for emergency or urgent cases and must adhere to cleaning and social distancing protocols in waiting areas and other non-clinical areas. Non-regulated health professionals must close.
The Government of Nova Scotia has clarified essential service sectors which are exempt from the 5 person or less gathering rule. Those sectors are:
- 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 also issued directives to employers and landlords and announced support for businesses. Employers cannot require a doctor’s note if an employee must be off work and no tenant can be evicted because their income has been impacted by COVID-19 for the next 3 months.
In terms of support 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 make it easier for businesses to access credit up to $500,000.00 and for those who might not qualify for a loan, government will guarantee the first $100,000.00. Small businesses who do business with government will be paid within 5 business days instead of 30.
In New Brunswick, all public schools have been closed as of March 13, 2020 for two (2) weeks, libraries, museums, theatres, recreational facilities, zoos, cinemas and arcades, training centres and bars are all closed, and all childcare facilities are closed to with the exception of those which provide childcare to essential services workers.
New Brunswick has declared a state of emergency. As a result:
- All food and beverage business are reduced to take-out and delivery only;
- Bars will be closed as well recreational facilities and retail businesses except for pharmacies, grocery stores, repair garages, post offices, banks, gas stations, hardware stores, convenience stores, animal and fish fee providers and NB Liquor and Cannabis NB stores;
- All businesses required to be closed to patrons are permitted to sell online or over the phone and arrange for delivery or pick-up of purchases; and
- All travellers are being screened at the border.
All regulated health service providers will cease operations unless addressing essential health care or emergency health-care situations, as well unregulated health services providers unless providing direct support to regulated health service providers.
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. Public Health is preparing a questionnaire employers can use to screen workers, customers and other members of the public before they enter.
The Government of New Brunswick has issued guidelines regarding what businesses may remain open and practice social distancing.
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.
On March 24, 2020 the Government of New Brunswick announced that it 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 $900.00 will be administered via the Red Cross.
Beginning March 25, 2020, interprovincial travellers will be required to self-isolate for 14 days. All unnecessary travel into New Brunswick is prohibited and peace officers will be stopping travellers at the borders, asking for ID, contact information and intended destinations and will be tracked, including those travelling through New Brunswick to other provinces. Peace officers are authorized to turn away visitors when they attempt to enter if travelled is unnecessary.
On March 26, 2020 the Government of New Brunswick announced further support for businesses and workers. For workers, $4.5 million will be invested to provide a benefit for workers to bridge the gap between when a worker lost their job or closed their business after March 15, 2020 to when the national benefit takes effect. This benefit is to be available before the end of March and will end April 30, 2020. Legislative and regulatory amendments will be introduced to provide job protection for workers who must take a leave of absence due to COVID-19. It will allow an unpaid leave of up to 15 weeks to workers who have COVID-19 or are caring for someone with the virus.
For businesses, WorkSafeNB is deferring the collection of assessment premiums for 3 months with zero interest. The Provincial Government will, on a case-by-case basis, defer loan and interest repayments for existing business loans for up to 6 months. Small businesses will be eligible for loans up to $200,00.00 and will not be required to pay principle on the loan for up to 12 months. New Brunswick will also provide working capital to medium to large employers to manage impacts on operations.
NEWFOUNDLAND & LABRADOR
In Newfoundland & Labrador, all classes for students K-12 are suspended, all regulated childcare centres, with the exception of regulated family child care are closed and all provincially owned and operated pools and training centres are closed.
Gyms, dance studios, bars, cinemas, arenas, spas and salons, retail stores apart from those providing services essential to the life, health or personal safety of individuals and animals and private health clinics are closed as March 18, 2020 when the Province declared a state of emergency. Restaurants are permitted to open for delivery, take-out and drive-thru service and gatherings of more than ten (10) people are prohibited.
Individuals who do not comply could face a fine or jail time and businesses could be fined $5,000.00 – $50,000.00.
Amidst the closures, the Government of Newfoundland & Labrador has announced that it 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.
As of March 23, 2020 long-term care homes in Newfoundland & Labrador are closed to visitors.
On March 24, 2020, the Government of Newfoundland & Labrador announced that it will be providing $120,000,000.00 in funding to community-based organizations to help groups response to pressures arising from COVID-19.
The Government of Newfoundland & Labrador is now also permitting the limited operation of regulated child care services for children up to the age of 13 for essential workers.
As of March 26, 2020, passengers on provincial ferries are limited to essential workers travelling to their workplace, patients travelling for medical reasons, those travelling to purchase essential goods and those transporting essential goods. Passengers must remain in their vehicles during crossings and advise ferry staff if they’ve recently returned from travel outside the province.
- Legislative amendments were introduced on March 26, 2020 to support people and businesses. The amendments include:Job-protected leave of absence without pay for employees who must take time away from work due to COVID-19;
- Ensure tenants cannot be evicted if they have lost income due to COVID-19 and not able to pay rent;
- Extend interim supply until September 30, 2020 to ensure existing government services can continue;
- Provide long-term borrowing authority to $2 billion;
- Authorize temporary variation of deadlines and time periods; and
- Changes to the hydro legislation to authorize additional borrowing capacity.
Amendments to the Labour Standards Act provide for an unpaid leave of absence for employees who are unable to work for the following reasons:
- 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
- Employer directs the employee not to work due to COVID-19.
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.
PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND
Prince Edward Island has declared a state of emergency and closed all public schools from March 23 to April 3, 2020. Related measures include:
- All public licensed child care centres, libraries, museums, community centres, bars, theatres and indoor play areas are also closed until further notice;
- All dental and optometry clinics have been instructed to cancel all appointments except for emergency appointments; and
- Restaurants are restricted to pick-up, delivery and drive-thru options.
Prince Edward Island has also issued guidelines regarding essential and non-essential services.
As of March 21, 2020, domestic travellers returning to Prince Edward Island are required to self-isolate and screening protocols are in place at borders. Exceptions will be made for essential workers.
Prince Edward Island has set up an Emergency Contingency Fund to support workers, including self-employed workers and small businesses impacted by COVID-19, including Emergency Income Relief of up to $500.00 per week for self-employed individuals. Emergency Working Capital Financing has also been put in place for small businesses through a capital loan of up to $100,000.00. The Emergency Relief – Worker Assistance Program has also 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 $250.00 per week for each worker that experienced the reduction.
Additional supports by the Government of Prince Edward Island include deferral of scheduled loan payments for clients of Finance PEI, Island Investment Development Inc. and PEI Century Fund for 3 months; $4.5 million for financing for small business and entrepreneurs; and a temporary allowance of $200.00 per week for anyone experiencing a significant drop in working hours.
As of March 23, 2020, fines may be imposed on anyone who does not comply with self-isolation measures:
- $1,000.00 for first offence;
- $2,000.00 for second offence; and
- $10,000.00 for a third or subsequent offence.
New screening measures have also been put in place at all entry points.
On March 24, 2020, the Government of Prince Edward Island announced that it is putting in place a temporary Employee Gift Card Program in conjunction with Sobeys to provide $100.00 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 one (1) or more employees due to COVID-19 between March 13 and 31 and have affected employees with a salary of $25.00/hour or less.
The Government of Prince Edward Island tightened restrictions on self-isolation requirements. As of March 25, 2020, those self-isolating must remain on their own property when outside and those living in apartment buildings must stay on building property while outside.
On March 27, 2020, the Government of Prince Edward Island announced that all schools will remain closed for in-person classes and all daycares will remain closed until at least May 11, 2020. Non-essential governmental services and non-essential businesses will remain closed indefinitely.
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.