Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health says, as other provinces experience a second wave of COVID-19, Nova Scotia will also see cases of the novel coronavirus.

“It’s not unexpected that as we get more COVID around us in other parts of Canada, in other parts of the world, we will get more COVID coming here,” said Dr. Robert Strang during a news conference in Halifax on Wednesday.

“That’s why we need to keep focused on doing what has kept us safe to date.”

Wednesday’s news conference was the first COVID-19 briefing held in Nova Scotia in two weeks.

Premier Stephen McNeil noted 10 new cases of COVID-19 have been announced over the past two weeks, but people who tested positive have already recovered.

Nine of those cases are related to travel outside the Atlantic bubble and another case is a close contact of a positive case.

“It’s another sign that COVID is never far away and that we have to continue to be diligent and follow the protocols,” said McNeil. “Keep your distance, wash your hands, wear a mask and stay home if you are feeling unwell and do the online self- assessment to determine if you have enough symptoms to require a COVID test.”

ONLINE BOOKING FOR COVID TESTS

Among Wednesday's announcements was the rollout of online booking for COVID-19 tests, which Strang and McNeil said would reduce wait times. 

Nova Scotians in the Central Zone who need a COVID-19 test can now book their own test online. 

Online booking is expected to be available in the northern, western and eastern zones by the second week of November.

Nova Scotians must first complete the online self-assessment to determine if they need a COVID-19 test. If they do require a test, they will be directed to the online booking site to make an appointment.

Tests should be scheduled within 48 hours of completing the self-assessment.

INTERNATIONAL POST-SECONDARY STUDENTS WON’T BE TESTED

Nova Scotia had announced Tuesday that international students will soon be able to return to post-secondary schools in the province.

Strang confirmed Wednesday that the students won’t be tested for COVID-19 when they arrive in the province -- a change from what was required of students from outside the Atlantic bubble when they arrived in Nova Scotia in September.

At that time, post-secondary students from outside the bubble were required to undergo three COVID-19 tests, while also having to self-isolate for 14 days.

International students will have to self-isolate for 14 days, but they will not be tested for COVID-19.

“The international students are a much lower number over a much longer period of time, so we didn’t feel that it was necessary to bring in, to supplement quarantining with testing,” explained Strang.

“Once they get here, they are required to self-isolate for 14 days and the institutions must have a detailed protocol in place to support those students all the way from getting them from the airport to either a hotel or another living arrangement.”

With much of the country now facing a second wave of the pandemic, concern is growing about what could happen during the upcoming holiday season if students from outside the Atlantic bubble go home.

“I think that the rapid testing is critical and keeping an eye on the latest developments and being early adaptors is really important that we continue to see the low case counts that we’ve seen so far,” said Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Houston.

Health officials say they’re already starting to discuss what the Christmas break will look like, but, so far, there are no changes.

“As of today they will follow the protocols like everyone else that leaves the Atlantic bubble and comes back in,” said McNeil. “They will have to self-isolate, but we will work with public health as we get closer to make sure that we communicate that message.”

THANKSGIVING AND HALLOWEEN

McNeil noted that some provinces have seen a spike in COVID-19 cases since Thanksgiving and that gatherings have been driving their COVID-19 transmission.

He admitted he was concerned that Nova Scotia would also see a spike after Thanksgiving, but, with few cases reported, it appears Nova Scotians have been following the public health protocols.

“I am grateful here in Nova Scotia on Thanksgiving weekend, you had your turkey and you followed the protocols. What more could we ask? It makes me so proud that we are all in this together,” said the premier.

Turning his thoughts to Halloween, McNeil urged Nova Scotians to be safe and follow the rules while trick-or-treating or attending gatherings this weekend.

“No matter what costume you wear or how many doors you knock on, you need to follow all of the protocols,” said McNeil. “So when you dress up make sure you wear a mask and not just a Halloween mask. And when you say “trick or treat” make sure you are doing it from a distance. Dr. Strang and I want you to have fun so please be safe.”

NO NEW CASES OF COVID-19

Nova Scotia reported no new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday. One previously reported case is now considered recovered, dropping the number of active cases in the province to five.

The province last identified a new case on Tuesday in the central zone, which includes the Halifax Regional Municipality.

Public health says that case is related to travel outside of Atlantic Canada, and the individual had been self-isolating.

The Nova Scotia Health Authority labs completed 861 Nova Scotia tests on Tuesday, with no new cases identified.

To date, Nova Scotia has 110,079 negative test results.

There are 1,102 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Nova Scotia, but 1,032 cases are considered resolved, and 65 people have died, leaving five active cases in the province.

There is currently no one in hospital as a result of COVID-19.

The province's confirmed cases range in age from under 10 to over 90.

Sixty-one per cent of cases are female and 39 per cent are male.

There are cases confirmed across the province, but most have been identified in the central zone.

The provincial government says cumulative cases by zone may change as data is updated in Panorama, the province’s electronic information system.

The numbers reflect where a person lives and not where their sample was collected.

  • western zone: 56 cases
  • central zone: 923 cases
  • northern zone: 68 cases
  • eastern zone: 55 cases

STATE OF EMERGENCY RENEWED UNTIL NOVEMBER

The provincial state of emergency, which was first declared on March 22, has been extended to Nov. 1, unless government terminates or extends it before then.

LIST OF SYMPTOMS

Anyone who experiences a fever or new or worsening cough, or two or more of the following new or worsening symptoms, is encouraged to take an online test or call 811 to determine if they need to be tested for COVID-19:

  • sore throat
  • headache
  • shortness of breath
  • runny nose/nasal congestion

SELF-ISOLATION AND MANDATORY MASKS

Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 is required to self-isolate at home, away from the public, for 14 days.

Anyone who travels to Nova Scotia from outside the Atlantic region is required to self-isolate for 14 days and must fill out a self-declaration form before coming to the province.

However, the province has eased some self-isolation requirements for out-of-province rotational workers.

Residents of New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador are not required to self-isolate when travelling to Nova Scotia, but they must be prepared to provide proof of their place of residency at provincial borders.

Visitors from outside the Atlantic region who have already self-isolated in another Atlantic province for 14 days may travel to Nova Scotia without having to self-isolate again.

It is mandatory to wear a non-medical mask in most indoor public places in Nova Scotia.