Nova Scotia now says it won't immediately shut down rapid COVID-19 testing sites

·2 min read
Dr. Robert Strang is Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health. (CBC - image credit)
Dr. Robert Strang is Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health. (CBC - image credit)

With Nova Scotia postponing Phase 5 of its reopening plan from Wednesday until Oct. 4, the province says that will also mean its rapid COVID-19 testing sites "will remain open for the time being."

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang made the announcement at Tuesday's COVID-19 briefing.

Rapid testing is meant for asymptomatic people 16 and older who have not travelled, been to a potential exposure location or been in contact with someone who has tested positive.

Nova Scotia Health's website has dates and locations for rapid testing sites. Despite today's announcement, the final two listed are for Halifax and Dartmouth on Tuesday, with no future dates noted.

Nova Scotia is in the fourth wave of the pandemic. On Tuesday, it reported 66 new cases — the highest single-day case count since May 23, when 74 cases were announced.

When the province reaches Phase 5, mask mandates and gathering limits will be dropped.

Rapid testing identified 20% of cases during third wave, say Liberals

Liberal Leader Iain Rankin had called for the province to keep the sites open, noting that rapid testing sites helped limit the size and duration of the third wave of the pandemic in Nova Scotia.

"Nova Scotia was recognized as a national leader in rapid testing," he said in a statement. "Pop-up sites across the province allowed easy access to results within an hour, giving Nova Scotians and visitors peace of mind as they travelled the province and supported local businesses.

"The strategy worked. Rapid testing identified approximately 20 per cent of COVID-19 cases during the third wave, allowing us to quickly identify and contain new cases and close contacts."

The planned closure of the rapid testing sites corresponds with a change in the province's approach to COVID-19 testing, said Strang at last week's COVID-19 briefing. Under Phase 5, the focus will be on symptomatic testing and the asymptomatic workplace testing program, which has around 300 firms participating.

Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press
Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press

"I'm comfortable that that gives us a strong surveillance network," said Strang. "We don't need to be doing general asymptomatic testing as we move into Phase 5 like we have been doing in the past.

"If things change and our epidemiology changes, we may have to again as part of a focused, targeted approach do more aggressive, general asymptomatic testing."

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