2 new COVID-19 cases in Nova Scotia; 4 new variant cases found

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Premier Iain Rankin and Nova Scotia's Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang during Tuesday's COVID-19 briefing. (Communications Nova Scotia - image credit)
Premier Iain Rankin and Nova Scotia's Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang during Tuesday's COVID-19 briefing. (Communications Nova Scotia - image credit)

Nova Scotia health officials reported two new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, along with the discovery of four more variant cases.

The two new cases are in the central health zone. One is the close contact of a previously reported case and one is under investigation.

The province also said the National Microbiology Lab has confirmed four new variant cases.

Two more cases of the variant first reported in the U.K. have been confirmed in Nova Scotia's central and western health zones. Both are linked to international travel.

As well, two more cases of the variant first reported in South Africa have been confirmed in the central zone and are linked to previously reported variant cases.

"At this time there is no evidence of community spread from these variants, which is good news," said Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health, during a news conference Tuesday afternoon.

It's unclear when the people who had the variants initially tested positive for COVID-19. CBC News has reached out to the province for clarification.

The province has 17 active cases of COVID-19.

More vaccine eligibility

Starting Tuesday, those who are 63 or 64 years old can get the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine at a pharmacy or doctor's office by booking online or by phone at 1-833-797-7772.

Bookings cannot be done in person and walk-ins will be turned away.

During Tuesday's news conference, Premier Iain Rankin said 6,000 people had signed up for appointments by the afternoon.

As of Monday, anyone who is 80 or older and was born between Jan. 1 and Aug. 31 could book an appointment to get a vaccine at a community clinic. Previously, only those 80 and older born between January and April were eligible.

By Monday night, all community clinic appointments for this week were booked and almost all 13,000 appointments for March had been booked, said Rankin.

"But if you didn't get one, don't worry, more will be coming online as we get more vaccine," he said.

Premier Iain Rankin said more vaccine appointments will become available as more vaccines arrive.
Premier Iain Rankin said more vaccine appointments will become available as more vaccines arrive.(Communications Nova Scotia)

As of March 15, the province said 50,144 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered, including 16,650 second doses.

Next week, Nova Scotia is expecting to receive shipments of more than 50,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines — greater than anything the province has seen so far.

Be patient, top doctor says

Nova Scotia's vaccine roll out hasn't been without issues. High traffic shut down the booking website for several hours after it launched earlier this month, and there were some issues with the booking website on Tuesday when people were trying to make their appointments for the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine.

Strang said the issues on Tuesday were corrected within two hours and said with a complex IT system, "there's always going to be little errors that happen, but the fact that we have a robust process to identify and correct the errors early should give people confidence."

He said he was confident the province will be able to keep up with demand as the province receives more vaccines.

Vaccinations at homeless shelters begin next month

The province also said public health mobile units will begin vaccinating at homeless shelters next month.

"Homeless shelters were initially included in phase two of our roll out, but they were moved ahead given they are a vulnerable group who are more at risk," said Rankin.

The province intends to begin with seven homeless shelters in Halifax, and the mobile unit will help administer vaccine to about 900 people, including people who use shelters and volunteers. The province says the plan is for the mobile units to help deliver vaccine over the coming months.

Promising employment news

During Tuesday's conference, Rankin said Nova Scotia's employment numbers in February were the closest to returning to pre-pandemic levels among all provinces.

"I've said it before and I'll say it again: good public health policy is good economic policy, and Nova Scotia is a prime example of that," he said.

He said both employment numbers and the labour force are close to where they were a year ago, and employment among women is now above pre-pandemic levels.

Rankin did acknowledge, however, that people in the hospitality and accommodations industry are still facing uncertainty.

"Yet I am still encouraged because I know we have what it takes to beat this thing, to recover and shape a new future," he said.

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