Premier Stephen McNeil and Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health, announced further measures Tuesday to strengthen the health system and help Nova Scotians dealing with COVID-19.
“Keeping Nova Scotians safe and healthy is our number one job,” said McNeil. “We all need to keep working together, support one another and make sure we are following the public health advice. That is the only way we can control the spread of this virus.”
Measures announced include:
— increased testing for COVID-19 — public health officials have begun testing all close contacts of positive cases
— lab capacity is doubling to accommodate increased testing
— expanding virtual care for physicians, nurse practitioners and others so they can offer appointments to patients through telephone or video, minimizing the need to leave the house; more than 80 providers have signed up for video so far
— 811 has increased staff and technology and is now answering 50 per cent more calls; on April 3, 811 will again double its capacity
— enhanced infection control measures at hospitals to protect health-care workers and the public include reassigning and adding new staff to increase the frequency of cleaning and disinfection; focusing on high-risk areas and high-traffic areas and high-touch surfaces; using stronger cleaning products
— regulated health professions can only stay open for emergency or urgent cases or to provide virtual care, as long as they can meet social distancing requirements in their waiting room or other non-clinical areas and follow the cleaning protocol
— non-regulated health professions (such as naturopaths) must close. One exception is podiatrists who must follow the directive related to regulated health professions
— Access Centres and Registry of Motor Vehicle Offices will start to resume operations in a scaled back, limited contact business model. Staff working out of Access Centres and Registry of Motor Vehicle offices in Amherst, Bridgewater, Dartmouth, Kentville, Stellarton, Sydney and Yarmouth will be available to help people with urgent matters by calling 1-800-670-4357. In addition, government has extended deadlines for more vehicle permits, registrations and renewals until Aug.31. Drop-off boxes for applicable services will also be available at Access Centres in Amherst, Bridgewater, Dartmouth, Kentville, Stellarton, Sydney and Yarmouth. Many of the services are also available online.
Essential service sectors in Nova Scotia, which are exempt from the five-person-or-fewer gathering rules, have been clarified and are:
— food, agri-food and fisheries
— transportation, including trucking, rail and transit
— construction and manufacturing
— IT, telecommunications and critical infrastructure
— public services, such as police, fire and ambulances
Individual business in these sectors must still maintain social distancing and other public health protocols.
“We need your help to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” said Strang. “It is critically important to wash your hands, practise social distancing and self-isolate if you need to. It’s also important to be truthful in your interactions with health-care workers and don’t call 9-1-1 unless you have an emergency. Working together we can protect our communities and our most vulnerable citizens.”
Ten new cases were identified Monday, March 23. The cases are travel-related or connected to earlier reported cases. Several of the new cases are connected to groups or families who have returned to Nova Scotia following travel outside of Canada. None of these cases are from spread within the community.
The 51 individuals affected range in age from under 10 to mid-70s. Cases have been identified in all parts of the province. One individual remains in hospital. One individual has recovered and their case of COVID-19 is considered resolved.
Public health has been in contact with these individuals and is working to identify others who may have come in close contact with them. Those individuals are also being directed to self-isolate at home, away from the public, for 14 days.
To date, Nova Scotia has 2,474 negative test results and 51 confirmed cases.
Anyone who has travelled outside of Nova Scotia must self-isolate for 14 days. If you have travelled outside of Nova Scotia or been in close contact with someone who has travelled and are experiencing fever or new cough you should complete the online questionnaire before calling 811. The online questionnaire can be found at: https://811.novascotia.ca/
Nova Scotians can find accurate, up-to-date information, handwashing posters and fact sheets at https://novascotia.ca/coronavirus .