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The Current Situation on Cape Breton Island

Last updated: April 21st, 2021

The global tourism industry is based on interactions with other people. This is especially so on Cape Breton Island where a spirit of hospitality is in our DNA. We love to welcome visitors, but public safety is paramount at this time. As a result, we want to provide you with factual and up-to-date information about the situation on Cape Breton Island.

As of April 21st, Nova Scotia’s Eastern Zone, which includes Cape Breton, has 21 active cases of Covid-19. The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) is actively monitoring the current outbreak and working with the World Health Organization along with other international partners.

The Atlantic Bubble 

If you travel within Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island or Newfoundland and Labrador you don’t need to self-isolate when you arrive in or return to Nova Scotia.

If you live in Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island or Newfoundland and Labrador, you need to show proof of residency when you enter Nova Scotia. You don’t need to complete a Nova Scotia Safe Check-in Form (self-declaration) before you travel to the province. When you arrive in Nova Scotia, every adult needs to provide a government-issued identification card, driver’s licence, passport or a utility bill or bank statement that shows their permanent home address. You also need to follow public health measures while you’re in Nova Scotia.

If you have already self-isolated in Prince Edward Island or Newfoundland and Labrador, you may enter Nova Scotia without self-isolating again. You also don’t need to complete a Nova Scotia Safe Check-in Form (self-declaration) before you travel to the province.

New Brunswick travel

People travelling between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick need to self-isolate when they arrive in Nova Scotia. They also need to complete a Nova Scotia Safe Check-in Form (self-declaration) before they travel to the province, including most travellers who are exempt from self-isolation.

If you routinely travel between Nova Scotia or New Brunswick to work or attend school, you need to follow the COVID-19 Nova Scotia-New Brunswick Travel Protocol (PDF 638 kB). People who need to travel between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick to drop off or pick up people or things, or accomplish other tasks that are necessary and can’t be done virtually also need to follow the COVID-19 Nova Scotia-New Brunswick Travel Protocol (PDF 638 kB).

Some people are exempt from the self-isolation requirement when travelling between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Even if you’re exempt, you still need to follow the COVID-19 Exempt traveller Protocol (PDF 175 kB).

Gathering Limits 

You need to follow gathering limits, unless your group has an exemption identified in the Health Protection Act Order (PDF).

The following gathering restrictions are in place:

  • Households can have up to 10 visitors at their home (indoors and outdoors), in addition to the people who live there without social distancing. When your household goes into the community, your household can stay together outdoors without social distancing no matter how many people are in the household.
  • Gathering limit for close social groups (indoors and outdoors) – you can form a close social group of up to 10 people without social distancing; you should try to keep this group consistent.
  • Private events on private property (personal residence, cottage or private rental property like a cabin or cottage) hosted by a recognized business or organization need to follow the Private Property Event Guidelines (PDF), including:
    • indoors – household members and up to 10 others
    • fully or partially held in outdoor enclosed structures – 50% of the structure’s capacity up to 100 people maximum
    • completely outdoors – 150 people maximum
  • Indoor gathering limit with social distancing for events and activities hosted by a recognized business or organization – 50% of the venue’s capacity up to 100 people maximum indoors (including spectators of sports and performing arts). Events and activities include:
    • arts and culture events
    • sports (recreational, amateur and professional), recreational and physical activity events
    • festivals
    • special events
    • social events
    • faith gatherings, weddings and funerals (including receptions and visitation)
    • bingo, darts and other activities hosted by unlicensed establishments and organized clubs following the Guidelines for Games and activities in licensed establishments (PDF)

    Licensed establishments can host bingo, darts and other activities following their sector plan and the Guidelines for Games and activities in licensed establishments (PDF).

    Audience members and spectators can only be permitted if the business or organization has an approved gathering plan that follows Guidelines for Venues and Facilities (PDF) and COVID-19 Prevention Guide for Events, Theatres and Performance Venues (PDF).

  • Outdoor gathering limit with social distancing for events and activities hosted by a recognized business or organization – 150 people maximum outdoors (including spectators of sports and performing arts). Events and activities include:
  • Recognized businesses and organizations hosting events and activities can have multiple groups of up to 100 people in each group if:
    • each group follows indoor and outdoor gathering limits for events and activities hosted by a recognized business or organization
    • the facility accommodates separate entrance and exit, concessions and washrooms for each group
    • the facility makes sure people in attendance follow social distancing guidelines
    • the facility has received Public Health approval of its Workplace COVID-19 Prevention Plan
  • Scotiabank Centre (Halifax) and Centre 200 (Sydney) can host events with multiple groups of up to 150 people.
  • Gathering limit without social distancing for participants and officials in organized performing arts and sports – participants and officials in performing arts and sports (recreational, amateur and professional) can gather in groups of up to 75 people without social distancing for rehearsals, performances, practices and games within their regular competitive schedule.
  • Gathering limit for businesses and organizations that can’t maintain a physical distance of 2 metres (6 feet) because their physical space is too small – 10 customers or clients maximum without social distancing (keep as much social distancing as possible).
  • Gathering limit with social distancing for meetings and training (indoor and outdoor) –  150 people maximum outdoors or 50% of the venue’s capacity up to 100 people maximum indoors when meetings and training are hosted by a recognized business or organization, including:
    • provincial and municipal governments
    • private businesses and organizations
    • first responder organizations (emergency first responders are exempt from social distancing when necessary)
    • mental health and addictions support groups
    • organized clubs (meetings can follow Guidelines for Return to Day Camp (PDF 525 kB) to have groups with up to 15 people in each group without maintaining a physical distance of 2 metres (6 feet); different groups of 15 must maintain physical distances

Local Flights and Border Services

After a long winter with no flights coming in or out of the J.A. McCurdy Sydney Airport, both Westjet and Air Canada are returning to Cape Breton Island.  Air Canada temporarily suspended flights from the J.A. McCurdy Sydney Airport, starting January 11th, 2021, with Westjet claiming they’d return in the fall or 2021.

On March 24th, 2021, WestJet announced in a press release that it will be restoring a daily Sydney-to-Halifax route starting June 28th. It’s one of a number routes in Eastern Canada the Calgary-based airline said it would be restoring, a list that includes Toronto flights to and from Charlottetown, Fredericton, Moncton, St. John’s and Quebec City. A Halifax-St. John’s route is also returning. Read the full article here.

Air Canada has told Sydney airport officials that it is reopening bookings for passenger service between Sydney and Toronto. The first flight is slated for takeoff on June 1.

The Newfoundland-based PAL Airlines will also be offering flights out of the JA Douglas McCurdy Sydney Airport as of May 31. The regional air carrier will be offering three flights to Halifax a week with a Dash 8-100 aircraft that seats 37. Read the full article here.

Cruise Passengers

The Government of Canada is advising that you avoid all travel on cruise ships due to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, until further notice. The Minister of Transport has announced two new Interim Orders, which prohibit pleasure craft in Canadian Arctic waters and cruise vessels in all Canadian waters until February 28, 2022. This means:

  • Adventure-seeking pleasure craft are still prohibited from entering Arctic waters.
  • Passenger vessels carrying more than 12 people are still prohibited from entering Arctic coastal waters, including Nunatsiavut, Nunavik, and the Labrador Coast.
  • Cruise vessels carrying more than 100 people are still prohibited from operating in Canadian waters.

Essential passenger vessels, such as ferries and water taxis, should continue to follow local public health guidance and protocols, and follow mitigation measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and prevent future outbreaks. These could include: reducing the number of passengers, ensuring physical distancing, the wearing of masks, and enhanced cleaning and hygiene measures. To read the full press release, please click here.

Ferry Service:

The ferry service between Yarmouth and Bar Harbor, Maine will not operate during the 2021 season because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Marine Atlantic announced that the Argentia (NL)-North Sydney ferry service is in service. With travel restrictions in place in both Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia, customers are advised to review the latest provincial restrictions and government websites prior to travel.

If you’re legally required to self-isolate, you need to self-isolate for the full 14 days or as directed by Public Health, even if you’ve tested negative for COVID-19 or get the vaccine, if you fall under one of these categories:

  • have COVID-19 symptoms and are waiting to be tested and get your test results
  • were at a potential exposure site and Public Health advises that you need to self-isolate while you’re waiting to be tested and for your test results
  • have been tested for COVID-19 and have been told by Public Health that you need to self-isolate while you’re waiting to get your test results
  • have tested positive for COVID-19
  • have been told by Public Health that you’re a close contact of a confirmed COVID-19 case or may have been exposed to COVID-19 and need to self-isolate, even if you don’t have symptoms

Food Services & Business Openings

Highly Affected Sectors Credit Availability Program (HASCAP) Guarantee

Businesses heavily impacted by COVID-19 can access guaranteed, low-interest loans of $25,000 to $1 million to cover operational cash flow needs. These loans are for small and medium-sized businesses that have seen their revenues decrease by 50% or more as a result of COVID-19. For more information please click here

In Accordance to The Province 

Employers and employees need to work together to maintain a healthy workplace. Employers and employees need to work together to prevent the spread of COVID-19, protect their customers, and keep each other safe. Employers need to make sure that employees are aware of employment rules and resources. Learn more about occupational health and safety guidance to help workplaces assess COVID-19 hazards and implement controls to reduce them.

You can find the Restaurant Association of Nova Scotia/Restaurants Canada’s Covid-19 Rapid Recovery Guide here.

If an employee tests positive for COVID-19

When anyone tests positive for COVID-19, Public Health contacts them directly. Public Health works with the person to identify all their close contacts and conduct a risk assessment to determine if any of their close contacts need to self-isolate.

Public Health directly contacts anyone who needs to self-isolate. In some cases, this means Public Health contacts the person’s employer if they were at work when they might have been contagious.

If Public Health doesn’t contact your workplace, that means they decided the risk to people in your workplace was low. You don’t need to do anything if Public Health doesn’t contact you and any employees who weren’t directly contacted can continue going to work.

If an employee needs to stay home, their employer can’t ask them for a doctor’s note. The employee contacts their employer when Public Health clears them to return to work.

Employers don’t need to close their business if one of the employees tests positive for COVID-19. They do need to make sure employees are monitoring their health.

Our Visitor Information Centres

The Visitors Information Centres in Cheticamp, Ingonish, and Port Hasting have officially closed for the 2020 tourism season. Covid-19 guidelines are still in effect and can be found here

National Travel Advisory

Canadian citizens and permanent residents are advised to avoid all non-essential travel outside of Canada until further notice to limit the spread of COVID-19.

The best way to protect yourself, your family, and those most at risk of severe illness from COVID-19 in our communities are to choose to stay in Canada. Contact your airline or tour operator to determine options for canceling or postponing your trip.

Many countries have put in place travel or border restrictions, such as movement restrictions and quarantines. Many airlines have reduced or suspended flights and many airports have closed.

Travellers Returning to Canada

All air passengers five years of age or older, including Canadians, will be required to show a negative COVID-19 test result taken within 72 hours (96 hours for select destinations) prior to boarding their scheduled departure to Canada unless they are traveling from a destination temporarily exempted from this measure.

Departing Canada

The Government of Canada has issued a travel advisory asking Canadian citizens and permanent residents to avoid all non-essential travel outside Canada until further notice.

Entering Canada

Travellers entering Canada must follow Government of Canada rules set out by the emergency orders under the Quarantine Act, including testing and quarantine requirements. Learn more: entering Canada by air and entering Canada by land.

Federal quarantine applies for all travellers entering Canada. If you can enter Canada and you have no symptoms, you must quarantine for a minimum of 14 days.

At this time, you are not excluded from quarantine, even if you have:

  • been vaccinated for COVID-19
  • tested negative for COVID-19
  • recovered from COVID-19

Flying into Canada – your quarantine period includes a mandatory 3 night pre-paid booking at a government-authorized hotel at your own cost.

Assess your quarantine plan

As a traveller, you must demonstrate that you have a suitable plan for quarantine.

  • You’re expected to make these plans, within your own means, before travelling to Canada.
  • Foreign nationals who do not have a suitable plan may be denied entry into Canada.
  • Those who arrive in Canada without a suitable place to quarantine will be directed to a federal designated quarantine facility for the full 14 day quarantine period.

You’ll need to confirm you have a suitable place to quarantine where you:

  • stay for 14 days or possibly longer
  • have access to the necessities of life, including water, food, medication and heat without leaving quarantine
  • can avoid contact with others who did not travel with you
  • have no visits from family or guests

To enter Nova Scotia

Every adult (18 or older) travelling into Nova Scotia needs to complete a Nova Scotia Safe Check-in Form (self-declaration) before they travel to the province. Mandatory isolation is required for all individuals entering the province from outside the Atlantic Bubble.

Government of Canada representatives at Canadian ports of entry will:

  • administer the emergency orders on behalf of the Public Health Agency of Canada
  • assess your potential risks to public health under the Quarantine Act
  • determine if you:
    • have suitable plans for quarantine or isolation
    • need to be transferred to a designated quarantine facility, if no other suitable options are available
    • have no symptoms of COVID-19 and can continue domestic travel to your place of quarantine

Public Health Agency of Canada online resources:

For a listing of current up-to-date information on the Coronavirus from PHAC please check here

Please call 811 if you have any symptoms or questions and do not hesitate to call 911 if there is an emergency. Nova Scotia Health number’s can be found here

You can sign up to receive updates from PHAC here.

You can call PHAC directly at the following toll-free number: 1-844-280-5020

You can check your symptoms through PHAC’s online assessment tool here


Travellers who start to feel unwell, are advised to stay at home or self-isolate away from the public. Individuals who develop a fever, with a temperature of 38°C/100.4°F or higher, and/or cough should call 811 for assessment.

If there is a need for in-person assessment, call 811 and they will refer you to a centre. Please do not go to a COVID-19 assessment centre without having been referred by 811. The Nova Scotia Health Authority has established COVID-19 assessment centres across Nova Scotia. Including the following Cape Breton locations; Buchanan Memorial Community Health Centre, Grand Lake Road Fire Hall, Inverness Consolidated Memorial Hospital, Northside General Hospital, Sacred Heart Community Health Centre, and the Victoria County Memorial Hospital. 

Find out if you need a COVID-19 test

Complete a COVID-19 Self-assessment if in the past 48 hours you have had, or you are currently experiencing:

Fever (i.e. chills/sweats) OR Cough (new or worsening)


Some of the more common symptoms include:

  • feverish (chills, sweats)
  • new or worsening cough
  • sore throat
  • runny nose or nasal congestion
  • headache
  • shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

You can call 811 for assessment if you’re unable to complete the COVID-19 Self-assessment online (or to speak with a nurse). Once you complete a COVID-19 Self-assessment, the assessment lets you know if you need to be tested and you can schedule the test online.

Note: Where language may be a barrier, please consult with your tour operator or accommodation providers, as they may be able to contact a health-care professional on your behalf.

Individuals in Nova Scotia who have been directed to self-isolate can receive supporting health information from Nova Scotia Health Authority Public Health by contacting the nearest office.

If you self-isolate or feel unwell:

  • Avoid close contact with people with chronic conditions, compromised immune systems, and older adults,
  • Avoid having visitors to your home,
  • Avoid situations like social gatherings, work, school, daycare, visiting other people who are in a healthcare facility or long-term care residence,
  • Limit taking public transit, taxis and ride-sharing,
  • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water frequently for at least 20 seconds; use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available,
  • Cover your mouth and nose with your arm or a tissue when coughing or sneezing; throw the tissue away.

Nova Scotians who have any other questions regarding Covid-19 can refer to the following site,


Government of Nova Scotia’s COVID-19 Outbreak update:

Click Here

Government of Canada’s COVID-19 Outbreak update:

Click Here

Nova Scotia’s COVID-19 Vaccine Implementation Plan:

Click Here

Nova Scotia’s Mask Policy:

Click Here

Nova Scotia’s COVID-19 child custody protocol:

Click Here

Nova Scotia’s Specialized Worker Directive:

Click Here

Nova Scotia’s Rotational Worker Directive:

Click Here