Nova Scotians will soon need to show proof of full vaccination to access non-essential services.
This requirement will kick in on Monday, Oct. 4. The fine details are still being worked out but it will apply to anyone wanting to dine out, go to a fitness facility, a movie, theatre performance, concert or sporting event.
Exceptions will be made for those who have proof of a valid medical condition preventing vaccination and children under 12 going to these events or facilities with fully vaccinated adults.
The province's chief medical officer of health says this will be a "time-limited measure in response to the fourth wave" of COVID-19.
"Requiring proof of vaccination to participate in activities that are discretionary, recreational or non-essential means we can bring larger groups of people together safely," said Dr. Robert Strang at a Wednesday briefing.
"This gives us the best chance of staying open once we've opened. We do not want to shut the province down again."
Strang said the virus thrives during social activities.
"Unvaccinated people in these settings increases the risk of spread within the larger group and puts the unvaccinated individuals themselves at greater risk," he explained.
"Unvaccinated people are 36 times more likely to be hospitalized due to COVID, so they need to be very careful about their own exposures."
Many schools and entertainment facilities that have recently announced mandatory vaccinations have granted exemptions for those who test negative for COVID-19, but Strang said that won't be the case with Nova Scotia's policy.
"Testing has an important place in our COVID response, but a negative test result is not an alternative to being vaccinated for participation in non-essential activities," he stated.
He added those who do not feel comfortable getting a vaccine will not be forced to do so.
"I want to be very clear, we are not requiring anyone to be vaccinated," Strang said. "You will remain having a choice, but we are still in the midst of a global pandemic that has taken countless lives."
"An individual's right to choose has to be balanced with our collective responsibility to keep one another safe, and I believe this policy provides an appropriate balance."
He said, although the vaccine isn't 100 per cent effective, it is still highly effective in preventing severe illness, hospitalization and death.
"I know there will be divided and strong views on this policy. My appeal to all Nova Scotians is that we not let this issue divide us like it has elsewhere," Strang pleaded.
"Please continue to treat one another with respect and kindness regardless of somebody's ultimate choice. Let's base our actions on what is needed to keep each other safe."
Anyone who got vaccinated through the province can find a record of their doses online. Strang said this will be enough proof for now.
If you got vaccinated elsewhere or through a federal program, like Canadian Armed Forces members, you can show proof from that jurisdiction.
"In some cases, this could mean they would have to show a record for each individual dose," the doctor said.
"We are working on a digital record for all Nova Scotians and on a solution to integrate doses received outside the provincial program," he added. "We'll have more to share on that soon."
The province also says it's on track to enter Phase 5 next Wednesday, Sept. 15.
As of 12:01 a.m. that day, masking, physical distancing and gathering limit protocols will be lifted.
As of Sept. 8, 71.7 per cent of Nova Scotia's overall population is fully vaccinated. Another 6.5 per cent has had their first dose.