Nova Scotia reported zero new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, but has identified earlier cases related to the delta variant.
The National Microbiology Lab has confirmed 20 delta variant cases and 36 alpha variant cases among previously reported COVID-19 cases, according to a release from the provincial government.
"I'm not surprised by this [and] fully expected to see it," Dr. Robert Strang, the province's chief medical officer of health, said during a briefing alongside Premier Iain Rankin Wednesday.
Strang said he did not have any details on when the variant cases were originally active in N.S., as they are in the process of matching the results with individuals.
The province's third wave was driven by the alpha variant, Strang said, but added the worry around the fast-spreading delta variant is that it could spark a fourth wave, which many countries around the world are experiencing now.
Strang repeated his call for Nova Scotians to get their second dose of vaccine as soon as possible, as a double dose is the best way to prevent an outbreak driven by the delta variant.
Nova Scotia has now moved into Phase 4 of its reopening plan, which was contingent upon 75 per cent of residents receiving one dose of a vaccine.
"We can enjoy this phase of newfound freedoms, however until we get our vaccination coverage up … we can't let our guard down," said Rankin.
Strang has said the province hit the 75 per cent milestone last week, a figure that includes vaccinated Armed Forces members who have not yet been added to the provincial database for privacy reasons.
He also said that so far, 45 per cent of Nova Scotians have received a second dose.
But Strang said until 75 per cent of all Nova Scotians have both doses, the province will not be able to move to Phase 5, or the "new normal" of living with COVID-19 without mandatory restrictions.
The province is on track to reach that goal by the end of August, but if more Nova Scotians step up for their second dose, Strang said it could happen earlier.
In the meantime, Strang said public health is looking at incremental changes for some things, such as large gatherings with thousands of people, so Nova Scotia does not suddenly return to full capacity in Phase 5.
Dancing at bars now allowed
The only remaining measures relate to indoor masking and physical distancing, Strang said, as "virtually everything else is open and 100 per cent" in Phase 4.
Nightclubs and bars now have the ability to open up for dancing, with masks, as long as people stay within groups of up to 25 people.
"We've opened things up a lot. Stay within the rules though. This is how we manage this additional level of risk," Strang said.
Strang said he's happy to see the needle beginning to move "a little bit" on second doses, and it's great to see people still coming out for their first dose, 1,200 of which were delivered Tuesday.
28 active cases
There is no longer any sign of community spread in the province, but all health zones are being closely monitored.
There are currently 28 active COVID-19 cases in Nova Scotia. Of those, two people are in hospital, including one in intensive care. The province reported three recoveries Wednesday.
The Nova Scotia Health Authority's labs completed 3,691 tests on Tuesday.
As of Monday, there have been 1,154,785 doses of COVID-19 vaccine administered. Of those, 434,537 Nova Scotians have received their second dose.
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