Nova Scotia extends restrictions for Halifax, expands testing
Asymptomatic COVID-19 testing starts across the province next week
December 4, 2020, 6:39 pm ASTLast Updated: December 4, 2020, 6:39 pm
The province is extending restrictions in the Halifax area as double-digit COVID-19 cases continue to be announced daily.
Dr. Robert Strang, chief medical officer of health for Nova Scotia, made the announcement during the province’s latest briefing Friday afternoon. The restrictions, which were implemented last week, will now be in place until at least Dec. 16.
The decision comes as 15 new cases were announced on Friday. There are now 117 active cases in Nova Scotia. Two of the latest positive tests involve students at schools in Halifax.
Bars, restaurants, gyms and other businesses in metro parts of the region and Hants County will have to remain closed. Retail stores will still be allowed just 25 per cent capacity. Households can have no more than five visitors and all non-essential travel in and out of HRM is prohibited.
“We need more time with the existing restrictions in place to see these numbers come down and be certain they will stay down,” Strang said.
Public Health officials project double digit daily cases will continue for several more days. Strang wouldn’t make any promises, but he said if Nova Scotians buckle down now it could lead to fewer restrictions over the holidays.
“All we have to do is look around us at other provinces and understand that what we are doing in Nova Scotia is absolutely the right thing,” he said.
Another school closed
Eleven of the new cases are in the central zone, including one case connected to Citadel High School in Halifax that was announced on Thursday.
The positive case Friday was a Grade 9 student at Park West in Halifax. The student was not in school Friday and is said to be self-isolating, the province said in a news release. Park West will be closed to students until next Thursday.
Three cases were in the northern zone and one was in the western zone.
A number of schools that were previously closed because of COVID-19 cases will open on Monday, Premier Stephen McNeil said at the briefing.
“I’d like to thank all the people in our schools,” McNeil said, “from the administration to the teachers, parents, and students for their co-operation.”
He also gave a shout-out to all cleaning staff: “You have been working tirelessly to keep us safe.”
Strang said asymptomatic testing will be expanded across the province starting next week. Nearly 12,000 Nova Scotians have been tested at sites in Halifax, Dartmouth and Wolfville in recent weeks.
The testing helps public health officials manage cases early and prevent the spread. People between the ages of 16 and 35 are encouraged to get tested even if they don’t have symptoms.
“We want to focus our efforts on those who are most likely to have asymptomatic infection,” Strang said. “It’s critical as part of our efforts to rapidly control the second wave of COVID in this province.”
McNeil said the province has conducted approximately 7,000 rapid tests in the last two weeks. He said this helped officials detect 22 positive cases in people who were not experiencing symptoms.
Changes for workers
Starting Friday, rotational workers will have access to more testing as well.
People who do shift work outside the province, usually two weeks on and two weeks off, already had a modified isolation. As long as they don’t have symptoms, they don’t have to isolate from members of their households.
Rotational workers can now book a test on Day 6 and Day 8 of their isolation period. McNeil said it gives everyone an added level of reassurance.
Strang also provided an update on when Nova Scotia may start receiving vaccines. He expects a small number of doses to arrive this month before the first allotment comes in early January. This will be followed by small weekly amounts for the first 12 weeks of the year.
The first vaccines will go to priority groups, Strang said. These include long-term care workers and resident, frontline health-care workers, and vulnerable populations.
Strang said Nova Scotia’s current priority is building a capacity to store vaccine in ultra-low temperature freezers for storage. The province has identified one existing ultra-low freezer in Halifax to store the initial vaccines, and Strang said the federal government is providing a second ultra-low freezer to the province.
Anyone with one of the following symptoms should visit the COVID-19 self-assessment website or call 811:
- Cough or worsening of a previous cough.
Anyone with two or more of the following symptoms is asked to visit the website or call 811:
- Sore throat.
- Shortness of breath.
- Runny nose.
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