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Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health, speaks in Halifax, on March 6, 2020.Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press

Nova Scotia is easing its COVID-19 restrictions to allow visitors back inside nursing homes.

Premier Stephen McNeil said Friday the restrictions were put in place to protect some of the most vulnerable people in the province, but it’s time to bring back some normalcy to the lives of those in long-term care.

Chief medical officer of health Dr. Robert Strang said residents in long-term care will be able to have more visitors starting July 22.

“We are moving from two up to five visitors per resident for outdoor visits,” he said at a news conference in Halifax.

“Visitors will need to keep physical distance or wear a mask. So if they want to go in and have a hug or put a hand on a shoulder, they can do that, but they need to wear a mask, otherwise they need to stay back that six-foot distance.”

Strang said up to three people can be designated as indoor visitors, but they can only visit one at a time and must book in advance.

Strang used much of the news conference to stress the importance of wearing a mask in controlling the spread of COVID-19.

He announced the province is making masks mandatory for drivers and passengers on public transit as of July 24.

“The reality is there are very few valid reasons not to wear a non-medical mask. They are mainly related to anxiety,” Strang said.

While masks will be mandatory on buses, Strang said the province won’t be taking a “policing approach” to enforce their use.

He did say the province is looking at examples from other locations and could extend the mandatory mask order to other locations and situations.

Nova Scotia reported no new cases of COVID-19 Friday. There are still two active cases in the province.

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