First asymptomatic COVID-19 testing event for newcomers held in Halifax

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A COVID-19 test is seen in this file photo. Halifax hosted the first asymptomatic testing site for newcomers in Nova Scotia over the weekend. (Evan Mitsui/CBC - image credit)
A COVID-19 test is seen in this file photo. Halifax hosted the first asymptomatic testing site for newcomers in Nova Scotia over the weekend. (Evan Mitsui/CBC - image credit)

A unique COVID-19 testing site took place in Halifax over the weekend with the regular swabs and materials — plus interpretive services for more than 200 languages.

The first asymptomatic testing event for newcomers to Canada took place Saturday and Sunday at the YMCA Centre for Immigrant Programs on Bayers Road.

The event was hosted by Nova Scotia Health and the province alongside groups like the Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia, YMCA and Halifax Refugee Clinic.

Margaret Angus, a spokesperson for Nova Scotia's health authority, said there was a push to get more participants on Sunday after organizers saw fewer people than they hoped to see on Saturday.

"The real focus of this one was less on numbers and more on creating a really positive experience for the people who do show up because the intent is to have more of these in future," Angus said Sunday.

"We figure if word of mouth gets around that it's a pretty decent experience, then more folks will come out next time as well."

The event was initially suggested by their partners and newcomer communities, Angus said.

Angus said the testing site was being run by Praxes Medical Group.

Just like in other asymptomatic sites, testing was free and those coming in did not need a health card to be tested, but could not have any symptoms of the virus.

There were interpreters on hand for a variety of languages, Angus said, as well as volunteers from newcomer organizations to make the experience as comfortable as possible.

Angus was unsure what type of interpreters were there in person, but everyone would have had access to the immediate LanguageLine phone interpretation service that carries 240 languages.

"We would have been able to respond in whatever language people arrived needing," Angus said.

The event began Saturday afternoon and ran until Sunday afternoon.

No dates have been set for the next newcomer testing events. Angus said the next step is to review the pilot event to determine what can be improved.

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