HALIFAX — Nova Scotia lowered the age of COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to people 25 and up on Thursday and boosted rapid testing in the Sydney, N.S., area to rein in community spread of the novel coronavirus.
The steps were taken as the province reported 65 new cases, including 15 in the eastern health zone, which includes Cape Breton. Nineteen cases were reported in the eastern zone Wednesday, mainly in the Sydney area.
Health officials reported 41 new cases Thursday in the Halifax area, seven in the province's northern zone and two in the western region.
"Our cases are trending downward and we hope that this continues," Premier Iain Rankin said in a news release. "But it will only happen if we stay home whenever possible, wear a mask, keep our distance, wash our hands, get tested and get vaccinated when it is our turn."
The government said there are about 61,400 eligible people in the 25-to-29 age group who can receive the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna mRNA vaccines. Nova Scotia's vaccine rollout grants access in descending order of five-year age groups as supply becomes available.
Chief medical officer of health Dr. Robert Strang has said 40 per cent of the province's population has received one or more doses of vaccine, but he has cautioned the government's "magic number'' is to get 75 per cent of the entire population vaccinated.
Strang has also said all Nova Scotians 12 and up should be able to book a vaccination appointment by next week.
As of Wednesday, 463,526 doses of COVID-19 vaccine had been administered. Of those, 40,495 people have received a booster shot.
Meanwhile, health officials added a new pop-up rapid test site at Centre 200 — Sydney's downtown arena — until at least Sunday.
Strang said Wednesday officials had detected community spread in Cape Breton and added that most of the cases had been identified around the Sydney area.
The outbreak in the Sydney region is predominantly among people in their 20s and 30s and Strang said more testing is needed to identify what is driving the rise in infections. He said officials are also looking at adding more pop-up sites around various locations in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality.
Officials said one of the cases identified Thursday in the Halifax area involved a staff member at Glasgow Hall, a long-term care facility in Dartmouth, N.S. A second case was reported in the eastern zone involving a staff member of My Cape Breton Home for Seniors, in North Sydney.
They said residents and staff from the affected units at both facilities were being tested, adding that most have been fully vaccinated.
"We know the restrictions are working and that is reflected in our case numbers, but they are still much higher than they need to be for us to ease restrictions," Strang said in a news release Thursday. "We need all Nova Scotians to do their part as we work to limit the spread of the virus."
The government announced it is providing more than $1.75 million in emergency funding to child-care centres across the province. The money is being made available Friday to cover staffing and operational costs.
Nova Scotia is under lockdown until at least the second week in June.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 20, 2021.
Keith Doucette, The Canadian Press