Nova Scotia increases focus on vaccinations as COVID-19 cases remain low

·3 min read

HALIFAX — Nova Scotia's low COVID-19 case numbers are allowing health officials to focus efforts on the province's vaccination program, chief medical officer of health Dr. Robert Strang said Friday.

The province reported one new case of COVID-19 Friday and 17 active infections.

"We are not seeing cases or investigations that are giving us cause for undue concern," Strang told reporters in Halifax. "Low COVID activity means that we can place our main focus on the rollout of vaccines."

He said the province is nearing the end of its "limited supply phase" and is now in the position to distribute the increasing amounts of vaccine it expects to receive over the coming weeks and months. By the end of March, Nova Scotia will have tested all of its models for vaccine delivery and should be ready to quickly expand the rollout, Strang said.

He said the province will continue its approach of vaccinating people in descending order, based on age, adding that he thinks that's the quickest way to build up society's immunity to the novel coronavirus.

Nova Scotia has already conducted a community clinic for those aged 80 and older and is in the process of holding several more across the province this month for that age group, including in pharmacies.

Residents aged 63 and 64 will be first in line next week to receive the recently approved Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. Thirteen-thousand doses of the vaccine will be administered on a first-come, first-served basis in 25 locations across the province starting March 20.

Premier Iain Rankin said all 25 clinics have received their supply of vaccine and are ready for the targeted date.

He said health officials expect to get more than 100,000 doses of vaccine by the end of March, which is more than the total amount of vaccine it has received to date.

As well, Rankin said residents of the province's 48 long-term care homes have had their first dose of vaccine, adding that 20 of those homes have administered booster shots.

As of Thursday, health officials said 46,891 doses of COVID-19 vaccine had been administered, with 15,655 people having received their required second dose.

Earlier Friday, the province announced a $7.3-million rebate program to support hotel, motel and inn operators, who have taken a hit during the pandemic. The program will provide qualified operators with a 50 per cent rebate on payment of the first six months of their 2021-22 commercial property tax bill.

Rankin noted that it's been a tough year for business and said Atlantic premiers will discuss next Wednesday the best time to reopen an Atlantic or Maritime travel bubble.

He said a travel bubble would likely open sometime in the spring, but he said he didn't want to speculate on what premiers will ultimately decide.

"The sooner the better for me, but obviously we are going to take that cautious approach," Rankin said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 12, 2021.

Keith Doucette, The Canadian Press