Rising COVID-19 cases leads restaurant and bar group to recommend Halifax closures

Nova Scotia Restaurant Association votes for temporary shut down, with executive director calling it the only way to shut down spread. The province's chief medical officer of health says most recent cases have been traced to bars and restaurants.

The Canadian Press

HALIFAX — The association representing Nova Scotia's independent restaurants and bars is recommending its Halifax-area members close their dining areas for two weeks following a rise in COVID-19 cases.

Gordon Stewart, the executive director of the Restaurant Association of Nova Scotia, said today the board of directors voted Monday to recommend the closures.

The group says the measures should be applied to Halifax, where the government has been regularly warning people of possible exposures to COVID-19. Nova Scotia reported 51 active infections on Monday.

Stewart says the recommendation applies to full-service, sit-down restaurants and bars, but says takeout services should stay open as should restaurants located in hotels.

He says younger people are visiting restaurants and spreading the virus and that the only way to control transmission is to shut them down.

Meanwhile, the province is announcing a special testing strategy aimed at patrons and employees of late-night bars and restaurants — even if they don't have symptoms of the illness.

Health officials said today anyone who works in a licenced establishment or who went to a bar or restaurant in Halifax after 10 p.m. in the last two weeks should book a COVID-19 test.

"Most of our recent cases of COVID-19 have been among young people who have been to late-night bars and restaurants," Dr. Robert Strang, chief medical officer of health, said in the release.

"This broad testing initiative will help us detect new cases early, get people who test positive to self-isolate and stop the spread of the virus." The province says the special testing will be available until Nov. 30.

Stewart says the closures his group is recommending will likely contribute to more permanent shutdowns and job losses in the industry, which was shut down for 78 days during the first wave of the pandemic.

"It's going to be tough for everybody," he said in an interview. "What we're going to see in the long run here is this is an industry that is going to have fewer employees."

The association estimates 100 restaurants have closed in Nova Scotia since the start of the pandemic, and expects about 200 independent restaurants and bars will permanently close because of the health crisis.

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