What you need to know about Nova Scotia's new COVID-19 testing rules

·3 min read
Public Health says people who test positive with a rapid test must start self-isolating and calling close contacts.  (Alexandre Silberman/CBC - image credit)
Public Health says people who test positive with a rapid test must start self-isolating and calling close contacts. (Alexandre Silberman/CBC - image credit)

With the COVID-19 Omicron variant spreading rapidly in Nova Scotia, the province says it has implemented changes to testing to ensure the best use of Public Health resources.

Speaking at a Tuesday briefing, Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health, said measures being taken are not going to stop the variant, but are aimed at slowing it down and protecting the most vulnerable.

He said people at the highest risk of disease and hospitalization will be prioritized for Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing.

For those who do have symptoms and fall into these groups, they can book an immediate PCR test:

  • People 50 years and older.

  • People 12 years or older and not fully vaccinated.

  • A child or youth under 18 with any of the following conditions: history of prematurity less than 29 weeks, chronic lung disease (including chronic lung disease of prematurity), cystic fibrosis, severe asthma, Down syndrome, motor neuron disease, multiple sclerosis, myasthenia gravis or obesity.

  • First Nations people or African Nova Scotians aged 18 and older.

  • Front-line health-care workers with direct patient care.

  • First responders.

  • People who live or work in one of the following congregate settings: long-term care homes, residential care facilities, corrections, shelters and transition houses, acute care settings.

  • Adults aged 18 to 49 with one or more risk factors for severe disease, including: obesity, Type 1 or 2 diabetes, chronic lung disease (including poorly controlled asthma), chronic kidney disease, Down syndrome, motor neuron disease, multiple sclerosis, myasthenia gravis or Huntington's disease. Risk factors also include being immunocompromised or receiving immunosuppressive therapy.

  • People who are pregnant.

People in these groups can also get PCR tests, even if they have no symptoms:

  • Domestic travellers who are not fully vaccinated and need two negative test results to stop isolating in Nova Scotia.

  • Rotational or specialized workers who are not fully vaccinated and are required to get tested up to three times while in Nova Scotia.

  • People who are scheduled for a medical procedure at a hospital and need a test prior to their appointment.

  • People directed by Public Health to get tested.

  • Nova Scotia Health employees or physicians who have received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine and need testing to continue working until they are fully vaccinated.

Self-manage

Strang said all other people with COVID-like symptoms will need to use rapid test kits at home and self-manage.

For those who test positive, Strang said, self-management includes contacting people they have been in close contact with.

Responding to a reporter's question, Strang said people who test positive are being asked to notify Public Health by email, but they anticipate they will not be informed about every positive test and those will not be included in the province's COVID-19 surveillance.

Strang said the focus now would not be on overall COVID-19 cases but on the number of severe cases that had to go to hospital or intensive care.

Widespread asymptomatic testing no longer the focus

According to Strang, there is no shortage of rapid tests, but the province cannot continue to have wide-scale asymptomatic testing.

He said rapid tests would be available at assessment centres for people who qualify and urged Nova Scotians not to hoard the tests.

"We have a good supply of rapid testing and we're ordering more, but the supply is not limitless, so we all need to use that supply responsibly and unselfishly," he said.

Strang said if someone has symptoms, the rapid test is reliable and if they test positive they should start following all the necessary steps.

These include isolating for a minimum of 10 days and doing their own contact tracing.

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