COVID-19 cases mount in N.S., but officials hope measures show 'indication of success'

The Nova Scotia government is reporting 13 new confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 in the province, bringing the total number of reported cases to 41.

The cases are spread throughout the province, officials said Monday, and the ages of those infected range from under 10 to mid-70s. One person is in hospital and the rest are recovering at home.

The province said the new cases were identified Sunday. Some are family groups who travelled outside Canada.

Dr. Robert Strang, the province's chief public health officer, said all cases in the province are travel related or through close contact with previous cases.

"To me that's an indication of success," he said. "We're seeing very small numbers of close contacts, mostly household contacts. So people are doing what we're asking them to do."

Strang would not comment on the exact age of the child who has the virus, citing privacy concerns. He did say the IWK Health Centre in Halifax is able to cope if children become seriously ill.

Travel outside of the province

People who travel outside of the province are now required to self-isolate for 14 days on their return. Strang said this means going straight home — not to the grocery store or anywhere else.

He said people self-isolating can go in their own yard and balcony, but no further. Strang acknowledged this is difficult for people in multi-unit dwellings.

"We ask those individuals and their neighbours to be creative," he said.

Premier Stephen McNeil acknowledged there were a number of workers caught in lineups at the border with New Brunswick on Monday as Nova Scotia officials stopped each vehicle coming into the province to tell those inside about the self-isolation order.

There are exemptions to the order, including truck drivers, medical staff and other essential personnel. McNeil said the province will be creating an essential-service line for those who need to get across the border.

"Use common sense, if you are not an essential-service worker you should not be crossing the border. You should stay home," McNeil said.

On Sunday, the province declared a state of emergency that will last until at least April 5. It includes the shutdown of beaches and parks, and McNeil said people should not be driving to public spaces to get their exercise.

"This is a two-week period where we're asking you to put the health of your neighbour and your province at the forefront," McNeil said. He added that in two weeks the order will be reassessed and likely renewed.

The premier said people can still get groceries, go to the pharmacy and go for a walk around their local neighbourhood. People cannot travel in groups and gatherings of more than five people are not allowed.

There have been 2,308 negative tests in the province so far.

Strang said the recovery period for COVID-19 is about 10 days. Once that period has passed, they no longer have to self-islolate if they are symptom free. 

"Once people are exposed, by and large, unless they have underlying other specific health conditions, they do develop long-term immunity," Strang said.

The premier also said on Monday that physicians in the province can now bill for phone and video call services.