Effective Tuesday, rotational workers who have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine will no longer need to self-isolate upon entering Nova Scotia.
They must have no symptoms and have received their second dose at least two weeks before arriving in the province.
Rotational workers will be asked to provide proof of vaccination while completing the Nova Scotia Safe Check-in application, said Dr. Robert Strang, the province's chief medical officer of health, in a news briefing Friday.
They must get tested on day one or two, again on day five or six, and again on day 12,13 or 14.
For rotational workers with just one dose of the vaccine, there will be a shortened self-isolation period of at least seven days. If they are coming from an outbreak site, they must isolate away from others until receiving a second negative test result by the seventh day.
If they're not coming from an outbreak site, they still must isolate. After receiving a first negative test result, they can switch to modified self-isolation for the remainder of the seven days.
There is no change to the self-isolation requirement for rotational workers who are not vaccinated.
"If you're a rotational worker and haven't gotten your first dose of the vaccine, I hope this motivates you," Strang said.
Airport, workplace testing
Also starting Tuesday, voluntary testing will be available for incoming passengers at the Halifax Stanfield International Airport.
Travellers will be given a self-swab kit and instructions on how to use it. Nova Scotia Health staff will be on site between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. to help, if necessary.
If travellers arrive outside those hours, they will take the self-swab kit to where they're self-isolating.
The swab must be done within 48 hours and then dropped off at a primary assessment centre. The tests are standard PCR tests and travellers can expect their results within 72 hours.
"Right now, this testing does not replace the need to self-isolate. The self-isolation requirements will change as we move throughout our reopening phases," Strang said.
The province is also working on a pilot program for workplace testing.
Strang said close to 50 employers in a range of businesses are taking part and have been for a "number of weeks."
Rapid tests are supplied by the federal government, and any positive cases then have to be referred immediately to get a confirming PCR test.
He said they're hoping to expand the program to include more businesses in the coming days and weeks.
15 new cases
Nova Scotia reported 15 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday for a total of 251 active cases.
Nine new cases are in the central health zone. Six of the cases are close contacts of previously reported cases, two are related to travel and one is under investigation, according to a news release from the Department of Health.
The other six cases are in the eastern zone. Four of the cases are close contacts of previously reported cases and two are related to travel.
Twenty-one Nova Scotians are in hospital related to the virus, including eight in intensive care.
Last month, the province put a plan in motion to expand its ICU capacity as hospitalization numbers were climbing rapidly during the peak of the third wave.
Strang said pressure on the province's health-care system from COVID-19 is decreasing, and there are ongoing discussions about how to start opening back up to non-COVID-related services.
"To open up too fast or too broadly, we run the risk of another surge. We need to make sure we're not going too fast," he said.
Starting Monday, Nova Scotians will be able to resume booking routine blood collection across the province.
Nova Scotia Health labs completed 4,557 tests on Thursday.
More than 621,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered across the province.
Weekly info on breakthrough cases
Effective Friday, the province will report so-called breakthrough cases, meaning someone who contracts the virus more than 14 days after receiving one or two doses of vaccine.
From March 15 to June 1, 19 Nova Scotians died related to the virus. One of them was fully vaccinated, two were partially vaccinated, and the remaining 16 had not been vaccinated.
During the same period, people who received one dose of the vaccine made up less than five per cent of the overall cases. People who had received both doses made up less than one per cent.
Strang said the percentages for hospitalizations were similar.
He reminded Nova Scotians that breakthrough cases should be expected because no vaccine is 100 per cent effective.
"The vast majority of people get good protection from the vaccine. But there are some who don't get as good protection, especially older people and people with underlying immune conditions," he said.
"That's one of the key reasons we have to have high levels of uptake in the overall population, to protect those around us who may not individually respond as well to the vaccine."
Premier Iain Rankin said that by the end of Friday more than 60 per cent of the population will have received a first dose of vaccine.
Sixty-seven per cent of people ages 12-15 have either received their first dose or booked an appointment. That number is 85 per cent for people 55 and up.
"We do need to do some work with the category in between those, that I fall in actually. We're looking at ages 15 to 40, which happens to be our most active social age group," he said, encouraging all Nova Scotians to book their first dose appointment if they haven't already.
Starting next week, people who received a dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine will be contacted to book their second dose appointment. They will be able to choose between AstraZeneca, Moderna or Pfizer.
The province announced Thursday that Nova Scotians who got their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine between March 11 and 21 can now make an earlier booking for a second dose.
Anyone set to get a second dose between June 24 and July 3 can reschedule. They should get an email notice, or they can call 1-833-797-7772.
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