Daycare staff and children over two years of age will be required to wear masks in common indoor areas and on buses starting Sept. 7, the province says.
"This means that these children will be required to bring two clean face masks with them every day," the province said in a news release Friday.
The new directive for daycares and early learning centres comes days before school is set to start for the year. The back-to-school plan shared last month mandated all students to wear a mask on school buses and in all areas outside their classroom, but only addressed kindergarten to Grade 12.
The new rules released on Friday will apply to children attending daycares as well as all visitors and staff.
The update to daycare guidelines "strongly encourages" the vaccination of daycare staff, the release said.
The province has previously made it mandatory for kindergarten to Grade 12 school staff to be vaccinated or, if not vaccinated, to go through regular testing for COVID-19.
Education Minister Dominic Cardy said the province can't mandate daycare workers to get vaccinated because they're private businesses and not employed by the province.
"They do have the right to impose exactly the same guidelines that the government has put in place," he said in an interview. "But the government doesn't have the ability at this point to be able to mandate that."
Cardy said he hopes workers get vaccinated without being mandated to do so. He said until children under 12 are able to get a COVID-19 vaccine, the extra measures are necessary.
When the pandemic was first declared there were conflicting ideas about whether masks indeed helped stop the spread of COVID-19 within groups of young children and toddlers. Cardy said the last year has shown children are adaptable and able to wear masks.
"Of course, if you do have a child who can't wear a mask for whatever reason, if they have a neurological issue or sensory issues and there's accommodations there," he said. "But for the enormous majority of kids, it just turned out not to be an issue."
The new rules also stipulate that daycares must keep visitor logs and have a plan to manage an outbreak.