N.S. says rapid testing should continue as they ease COVID-19 restrictions – Halifax

Nova Scotia is set to move to Phase 2 of its COVID-19 reopening plan next week, and the province says residents should keep getting rapid tests to protect those who are vulnerable.

In a Friday release, the province said those who are older or immunocompromised, and those who live with them, are encouraged to do regular rapid testing, even if they don’t have symptoms, the province said.

“Epidemiology is improving and restrictions are gradually lifting, but the pandemic is not over and we need to continue to evolve our testing strategy,” said Dr. Robert Strang, chief medical officer of health, in the release.

“Through the Omicron wave, rapid tests were used mainly to diagnose COVID-19 among close contacts and people with symptoms. We are now encouraging Nova Scotians to also use rapid tests as a way to help protect vulnerable people in our communities as we move toward a state of living with COVID-19.”

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The province said rapid tests will be available for free at pop-up sites, family resource centres and some libraries. Information on pop-up sites is available here.

Public health is also changing rules around managing COVID-19 risk and positive cases in Phase 2.

Effective Monday, there will no longer be isolation requirements for close contacts without symptoms. Monitoring for symptoms and testing is recommended.

However, close contacts who have symptoms of COVID-19 will need to isolate and get tested immediately, and do a second test 72 hours later. If a rapid test is used, then a third test is required 48 hours after the second.

“People can leave isolation if all tests are negative, symptoms are improving and they’ve had no fever for 24 hours,” the province said.

Anyone who receives a positive rapid test can now get a confirmatory PCR test.

Friday will be the last daily COVID-19 data update from the province, as the province moves towards weekly reporting.

Phase 2 to begin Monday

As of Monday, gathering limits for informal outdoor activities will be 50 people without masks or social distancing, up from 25. Limits for informal indoor activities remains 25.

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Services such as hair salons, spas and tattoo shops will be able to operate at 100 per cent capacity with mask requirements and distancing.

Bars and restaurants can operate at 75 per cent capacity and allow up to 25 visitors per table. Establishments should still maintain a physical distance of two metres between people at different tables, the province said.

Live music and dancing with face masks will also be allowed at liquor-licensed establishments.

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Retail businesses will be able to operate at full capacity as of Monday, but customers must wear masks and maintain a physical distance. Food courts can operate at 75 per cent capacity.

Phase 2 also means before and after school programs can operate with up to 30 people in each individual group without social distancing.

Participants in organized performing arts and sports can gather with up to 60 people without social distancing for rehearsals, performances, training, games and tournaments.

Large event venues of at least 100,000 square feet, like Scotiabank Centre, can operate at 75 per cent of its capacity up to 5,000 people while enforcing physical distancing and mask wearing.

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Faith organizations, mental health support groups, government organizations and other organized clubs can operate at 75 per cent capacity, up from 50 per cent in Phase 1. Faith services can operate at 75 per cent of the venue capacity and congregational singing will continue to be permitted with masks.

Movie theatres can also operate at 75 per cent capacity, and eating and drinking will be allowed once again. Masks are required but can be lowered to eat or drink while seated.

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Museums, libraries, art galleries, bus and boat tours can operate at full capacity with masks.

As of Feb. 28, proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 isn’t required by the provincial government to participate in any of these activities that gather people together.

Nova Scotia is poised to remove all COVID-19 restrictions as of March 21.

NSHA easing visitor restrictions

Nova Scotia Health is also gradually easing restrictions next week.

The health authority says support people and visitors will still be required to show proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 when entering care facilities.

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“Exceptions may be made for compassionate reasons such as emergency situations and end-of-life care, in discussion with the care team,” read an NSHA release Friday.

However, proof of vaccination will not be required for those who are seeking care or treatment.

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As of Monday, three designated support people at a time will be allowed for:

  • palliative care and other patients nearing end of life
  • patients receiving medical assistance in dying

Two designated support people at a time will be permitted for:

  • children and youth under 19 admitted to hospital
  • patients in intensive care units and critically ill patients in emergency departments
  • patients in labour and giving birth

One designated support person at a time will be allowed for:

  • children and youth under 19 in outpatient settings
  • hospital inpatients
  • patients in emergency departments
  • prenatal visits, including ultrasounds
  • ambulatory care clinics, appointments or procedures

More details on NSHA’s visitor rules are available here.

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