Nova Scotia increasing capacity to test for COVID-19

Premier Stephen McNeil and Dr. Robert Strang provide COVID-19 update October 6, 2020
Premier Stephen McNeil and Dr. Robert Strang provide COVID-19 update October 6, 2020. Photo credit: Nova Scotia Government
Ed Halverson - QCCR - LiverpoolNS | 07-10-2020
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Nova Scotia is increasing its COVID-19 testing capacity.

Premier Stephen McNeil says several steps are involved including:

  • increasing the lab capacity in Halifax to process 2,500 tests per day
  • adding equipment in Sydney so tests in the northern part of the province can be tested locally instead of sending them to Halifax
  • moving most of the primary testing centres to larger locations while increasing their hours and staff to speed up the testing process.

McNeil says any excess capacity not being used by Nova Scotians will be offered to neighbouring provinces.

“This is just the next phase of working with the national government to increase the number of testing opportunities in our province. And if they’re not needed here we’ll certainly make them available to the rest of the country,” said the premier.

The IWK Health Centre will also expand to double the capacity in its assessment centre.

Beginning October 7, the IWK will also start using a gargle test to diagnose COVID-19 in children ages 4 – 18.

The province’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Robert Strang says he’s been hearing from people asking why, when our numbers are so low, we can’t begin to relax some of the restrictions around COVID-19.

Strang says it’s those measures, the hand hygiene, social distancing and 14-day quarantines, which have kept the numbers so low and we need to maintain them.

He reminded Nova Scotians this is not the time to be complacent.

“We’re seeing the second wave in other parts of the country and that second wave is worse because the challenges of controlling large numbers of COVID while keeping things open as much as possible,” said Strang.

He says it’s much easier to control COVID if you have everything locked down.

“And they may have to go there in some of those other parts of Canada,” said Strang. “We’re trying to avoid being in that situation in the first place.”

With Thanksgiving on the horizon this weekend, Strang reminded people their celebrations may have to look a bit different this year.

“So you’re going to have to find ways to have small groups having Thanksgiving dinner together. And if that means a large family has to divide up and have different groups having different meals, I regret that that that’s going to be necessary,” said Strang. “But we can’t relax the rules just for Thanksgiving ‘cause we may well see the impact of this in two weeks if we’re not careful.”

Strang says the current limit is no more than ten people in a close social group without distancing and anyone who is exhibiting any symptoms of COVID should stay away from groups.

He says hosts will have more to think about including frequently cleaning of high touch surfaces like door handles and taking extra precautions in the handling of food.

“It’s important that we don’t have buffet-style service with lots of hands, each touching the same serving utensils. We would ask to have one person designated as a server, serving out individual plates and then passing those plates around, rather than passing around bowls and platters where lots of hands go on those,” said Strang.

Premier McNeil closed the briefing by recognizing that mask fatigue is setting in for some Nova Scotians and we need to continue to follow the public health protocols.

“We can not let our guard down. CODID is relentless and it thrives, quite frankly, on ignorance and arrogance,” said McNeil. “There’s no reason for anyone to be ignorant of this disease, we’ve now been dealing with for eight months and these public health protocols in front of us. And arrogance is not a way Nova Scotians react to anything.”

Reported by Ed Halverson 
Twitter: @edwardhalverson