High case numbers driven by the Omicron variant of COVID-19 are forcing changes in Nova Scotia’s approach to testing and case management.
“We have finite resources for lab-based testing, and we also have a limited supply of rapid tests over the next few weeks. We need to use those resources wisely given the current epidemiology,” said Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s Chief Medical Officer of Health. “Our priority for PCR testing has to be on people who are most vulnerable to disease and people who are needed to keep our healthcare system running. But everyone who needs a COVID-19 test will get one.”
More than a million rapid tests were distributed around the province in December. While Nova Scotians were initially encouraged to use them as a precaution for safe gatherings, these resources should now primarily be used when people have symptoms or are identified as close contacts.
“Nobody should be using these precious resources every few days just to feel safe. We need to focus most testing on people who have symptoms or are close contacts,” said Dr. Strang. “For at least the next few weeks, everyone needs to limit socializing to their consistent group of 10 which includes their own household, so there shouldn’t be a need for a lot of testing for social occasions.”
Everyone who has symptoms or who is a close contact of someone who has COVID-19 must immediately self-isolate. Today, December 24, and over the weekend, they can book PCR tests if appointments are available in their area. If not, they can use a rapid test if they have one or go to a pop-up site. The Halifax Convention Centre and Dartmouth Alderney Landing pop-ups are continuing. Other pop-ups and the public health mobile unit are being organized to focus on other locations around the province starting next week.
Starting Monday, December 27, people who are close contacts or have symptoms will need to complete the online self-assessment to find out which kind of test they need and book an appointment.
Most Nova Scotians who are close contacts or have symptoms will be directed to book an appointment to get a take-home rapid test from a testing centre.
Only certain people who are close contacts or have symptoms will be directed to book an appointment for a PCR test at a testing centre. This includes people who are at increased risk for severe disease, live in congregate settings, are being admitted to hospital or are integral to keeping the health system running.
The only other people who can book a PCR test are:
— domestic travellers who are not fully vaccinated and need two negative test results to stop isolating in Nova Scotia
— rotational workers and specialized workers who are not fully vaccinated and are required to get tested up to three times while in Nova Scotia.
When people test positive on a rapid test, they should notify public health by emailing their name, date of birth, health card number (if they have one) and contact information to PublicHealthPOCT@nshealth.ca. They need to advise their close contacts and follow directions for people who test positive at: https://www.nshealth.ca/testedpositiveforcovid .
More information and instructions on testing, isolation and next steps if either a PCR or rapid test result is negative or positive is available at the Nova Scotia Health Authority website: https://www.nshealth.ca/coronavirus .
Nova Scotia coronavirus website: https://novascotia.ca/coronavirus/
COVID-19 online self-assessment: https://covid-self-assessment.novascotia.ca/en
Information about COVID-19 testing and case management: https://www.nshealth.ca/coronavirus
Government of Canada: https://canada.ca/coronavirus or 1-833-784-4397 (toll-free)
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