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New restrictions for child custody visits, out-of-province workers start Monday

Multiple COVID-19 tests and new specific isolation rules will soon be mandatory for people with child custody visits, rotational workers and specialized workers
Strang headshot photo - 280221
Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health Dr. Robert Strang

This week, Nova Scotia’s new guidelines for specific groups of travellers entering the province come into effect.

Starting Monday, Mar. 1, the following groups must take multiple COVID-19 tests:

  • All rotational workers must take three COVID-19 tests during their 14-day mandatory self-isolation
  • Specialized workers will take up to three tests depending on how long they’re staying in Nova Scotia
  • Parents and children (age 4 and older) whose child custody visits involve travel outside of Nova Scotia or Prince Edward Island must take three COVID-19 tests

“This is not in response to the immediate events, but certainly we’ve been working on this for the last few weeks in response to the need to make sure we have strong measures at our border because of the variants,” Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health, said at Friday’s COVID-19 briefing. “We’re placing additional testing on groups who regularly travel into Nova Scotia.”

Strang also said Nova Scotia Public Health is working on bringing additional testing requirements for other groups of people who travel and are exempted from the 14-day mandatory quarantine.

Child Custody COVID-19 Protocols

New protocols are beginning for people travelling for child custody reasons, including dropping off, picking up and visiting.

People travelling for child custody reasons must complete a Nova Scotia Safe Check-in Form before travelling to Nova Scotia. They also may need to self-isolate.

The COVID-19 Protocol for Child Custody outlines the various requirements parents and children must follow depending on their situation.

Some situations are more lenient.

For instance, parents who travel to Nova Scotia to drop off or pick up a child and leave the province within 24 hours do not have to self-isolate or get tested.

Visitations have more specific rules.

Parents and children entering Nova Scotia from outside Prince Edward Island or a non-routine visit from New Brunswick must complete a daily Nova Scotia Safe Check-in and a modified self-isolation period.

The modified self-isolation period allows the visitors to interact with the people who live in the household they’re visiting, spend time outdoors on their property, go for a drive and even visit an outdoor space — such as a park or beach — as long as they wear a mask and practice physical distancing when encountering people from outside their household.

However, the parent or child who lives in Nova Scotia and receives the visitor does not have to self-isolate as long as they don’t have any symptoms.

“As long as they have no symptoms, the Nova Scotia parent or child is free to carry on their regular routines,” the protocol said.

Those who have routine visits between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick — such as visits every weekend or every second week — can be exempt from the mandatory 14-day self-isolation period if they meet a list of conditions:

  • Travel directly as possible to the place they’re staying using contactless services for any stops
  • Isolating in their overnight accommodations if staying overnight or longer
  • Wearing a non-medical mask in any indoor public space other than their overnight accommodation
  • Parents do not have contact with anyone except their child(ren) but children can continue to attend school, child care or extracurricular activities
  • Closely monitoring health and checking for symptoms
  • Completing a daily Nova Scotia Safe Check-in

In both visitation situations, three tests for COVID-19 are mandatory for those travelling outside Nova Scotia or Prince Edward Island.

Rotational and Specialized Workers

“We’re also making some changes to our definition of rotational and specialized workers,” Strang said. “Our provincial jurisdiction is only for people who travel domestically.

“We’re changing our protocols so it covers only domestic rotational workers and specialized workers. International rotational workers are subject to the federal Quarantine Act and they will have to follow the federal requirements.”

The province's website defines specialized workers as workers from another province or territory providing urgent or critical on-site work that requires specialized skills unavailable in Nova Scotia or Prince Edward Island. This includes people essential to inspecting, installing or repairing specialized equipment; those essential to the maintenance and repair of critical infrastructure and people essential to completing large construction projects.

Specialized workers must follow the COVID-19 Exceptions for Specialized Workers directive. This only allows specialized workers to work in Nova Scotia before completing a mandatory 14-day self-isolation.

The province’s website defines rotational workers as “individuals who live in Nova Scotia and travel to work in another province or territory (outside Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island) on a regular schedule.”

Workers who fall under this category must follow the COVID-19 Exceptions for Rotational Workers directive.

They also are given a modified form of the 14-day self-isolation. Similar to the child custody modified self-isolation, rotational workers can interact with fellow household members, participate in several outdoor activities and visit an outdoor public space.

During the 14 days, rotational workers still cannot enter indoor public places, visit other people outside their household, allow others to visit their household while on the property or work in any capacity that puts them in contact with non-household members.

Rotational workers can only break their modified form of self-isolation to get one of their three mandatory COVID-19 tests.

With the new restrictions coming into effect, Strang asks Nova Scotians to fully understand these rules before passing judgment.

“Rotational workers are actually allowed to be out and about in their communities with their family,” he said. “So, we’ve had this before where people were reporting that so-and-so shouldn’t be out and about where actually they’re doing what they’re allowed to do as a rotational worker.

“Be careful about making judgments about what people are actually doing if you don’t understand what they’re actually allowed to be doing.”

He said if someone has “legitimate evidence” of someone who’s breaching their mandatory quarantine period, they should then contact the non-emergency police line.

Strang also said the province is encouraging all Nova Scotians to get tested and should build it into their personal COVID-19 protocols.

“Whether they’re concerned about the activities of somebody else in their community or not,” he said. “We’re encouraging all Nova Scotians to incorporate testing whether it's asymptomatic.

“Not just because you think somebody in your community may be doing something that they shouldn’t be doing.”

Chris Stoodley

About the Author: Chris Stoodley

Chris was born and raised in Halifax. After graduating from the journalism program at King's, he started as CityNews Halifax's weekend editor.
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