Nova Scotia businesses and organizations prepare for next round of reopening
It’s taken a while, but Nova Scotia businesses and organizations are ready to welcome the final two phases of reopening.
Restrictions were eased further on Monday when the province entered Phase 2. Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 will be required to self-isolate for seven days, but they do not have to notify close contacts at outside his home.
Those who are close contacts and do not have symptoms no longer have to self-isolate.
A full reopening – Phase 3 – is scheduled for March 21, and that’s what many businesses are focusing on.
Gordon Stewart, executive director of the Restaurant Association of Nova Scotia, said restaurants are operating on thin margins and are looking to March 21, when they can operate at full capacity.
He said staffing is a major issue that will need to be addressed.
There was a labor shortage in the hospitality industry even before the pandemic, he said.
He said Nova Scotia is likely short of about 5,000 employees in the sector to be able to return to full capacity.
He said many restaurants will have to adjust opening days and hours due to lack of staff.
He said restaurants are going to have to make changes to stay alive.
“Besides the labor and COVID issue, you have other major issues,” he said. “Highest food prices ever, highest gasoline prices ever for transportation, supply issues, and on it goes.”
He said rising food costs will mean restaurants will have no choice but to raise prices by up to 10%.
He said another challenge with the removal of restrictions will be the issue of proof of vaccination in restaurants.
Stewart said he expects some people won’t go to a restaurant that doesn’t require proof of vaccination.
Restaurants can develop their own health and safety policies around this issue, he said, but he expects this concern to subside in a few weeks.
Paul MacKinnon, CEO of the Downtown Halifax Business Commission, agrees with Stewart’s view that Monday’s changes won’t make a big difference for restaurants.
He also thinks it will have little impact on stores, but said it will certainly make a difference for bars.
He said later opening hours and the return of dancing would certainly help this sector.
MacKinnon said restrictions such as vaccine and mask passports have slowed things down and imposed an enforcement burden on businesses. But ultimately, he said, it was the continued uncertainty about the pandemic that had the biggest impact.
What businesses really want from the province, MacKinnon said, is a “trust campaign.”
“There really is a shared responsibility to bring the economy back and especially for small businesses that have really been hammered over the last three years,” MacKinnon said.
“We hope we can get back to a situation that is… normal, or if not, even better than normal.”
At Events East, which runs the Scotiabank Center and the Halifax Convention Centre, marketing director Erin Esiyok-Prime said the prospect of having a full house at both venues is exciting.
She said the hospitality industry is facing staffing challenges, but her organization will work with industry partners to attract people.
According to Esiyok-Prime, the focus remains on ensuring the health and safety of events for their customers, guests and staff.
“At the end of the day, we want everyone to feel comfortable, so we will certainly respect the wishes of our fans and our guests,” she said.
The convention center starts getting busy at the end of March, she said, and will remain busy throughout the summer.
Coping with the ever-changing landscape of COVID-19 restrictions has proven to be a challenge for many religious institutions.
The Reverend Susan Chisholm, minister at St. Andrew’s United Church in Halifax, said the church will fully reopen on March 21, but will continue to allow congregation members to attend remotely.
“We’ll continue our sort of hybrid approach, which is live and in-person, which has been going on for as long as we’ve been allowed to be together. And we’ve gotten really, really good at it,” she said. declared.
“It’s kind of that gift, that silver lining, of being forced to be more creative and flexible in how we help people be a part of what we do.”
She said a section will be set aside in the church with seats spaced two meters apart for people who want more physical distancing.
Chisholm said masks won’t be needed in the building. Signs will be put up to inform people that they are perfectly fine to wear a mask if they wish.
Despite keeping live streaming as a permanent part of the services, Chisholm said there’s still a deeper connection and “mind action” when people are in physical proximity.