UPDATED: Why the Halifax lockdown got lifted early

Top doc Strang credits low case numbers and record amounts of COVID-19 testing.


Update March 4: Today the province did indeed lift the lockdown, a full three weeks early, making the following article more pertinent even as it becomes out of date. Get the deets on what happened in our story about the restrictions ending. Update March 8: The original headline on this story was "Why the Halifax lockdown might be lifted early," and we changed it to "Why the Halifax lockdown might be got lifted early" with the cute strikethrough styling, but on social media the strikethrough didn't display, so it looked like the headline was "Why the Halifax lockdown might be got lifted early"—a decidedly strange headline, and we're sorry if that popped up in your feeds. We've gotten rid of the strikethrough completely now.

At yesterday’s briefing, premier Iain Rankin told Nova Scotians that this past weekend’s COVID-19 testing turnout was “just incredible.” From Friday through Sunday, provincial labs processed 12,000 tests, and 3,000 rapid tests were completed at pop-up testing sites; then the labs did 5,000 more on Monday, March 1 (setting a new single-day testing record for the province). Top doc Robert Strang said that’s more than “all of the people tested during the entire H1N1 pandemic.”

Thanks to this turnout, the province is now less worried about C19 spread, since only one positive case, in the Northern zone, was identified Monday, bringing the total to 29 active cases. “The good news in all this testing over the last few days is there are just a few positives,” Strang said.

However, the province also heard back from the national lab on some variant testing, and those results aren’t as good. “The national microbiology lab confirmed seven new variant cases, two UK and five South African,” said Strang.

The UK variant or B117 cases are related to a previously reported case, and the SA variant (the 501V2 strain) cases are related to an international traveller and their household contacts. In total, there have now been eight cases of B117 and six cases of 501V2 in Nova Scotia.

“If the pattern continues that we’re seeing, we may be in a position to lift restrictions much earlier than March 26. We’ll have more to say about this on Friday.”

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While some provinces have recommended double-masking to thwart the more-infectious variants, Strang still says wearing your mask the right way at the right time is most important.

“It’s not worrying so much about the type of mask you‘re wearing, but are you wearing a mask when it should be worn,” he said Tuesday. “And if you are wearing it, are you wearing it appropriately? Are you putting it on and taking it off without contaminating it? Are you wearing it over your nose and mouth with a tightly fitting seal?”

And of course, Strang is still recommending Nova Scotians get tested often if they have a large social group, go out to eat frequently or work with the public.

"Everyone needs to behave with the same caution as they did last spring when the virus first arrived in Nova Scotia,” he said at last Friday’s briefing. “Everyone needs to get tested even if they only have one mild symptom.”

Last week, the good doctor told Nova Scotians that there have actually been zero cases of the typical flu in the province this year. “I’ve been working here for 20 years and it’s the first year we’ve had zero lab confirmed cases of influenza. We have very low numbers of other cold viruses around, so if somebody has even very mild cold-like symptoms, there’s a strong possibility that you may have COVID-19.”

But if our case numbers do continue to stay low, Strang says restrictions in HRM could ease earlier than the March 26 date he gave Friday, when a circuit breaker was put in place.

“If the pattern continues that we’re seeing, we may be in a position to lift restrictions much earlier than March 26, I know that would be very welcome news,” said Strang. “We will continue to assess our epidemiology over the next couple of days and we’ll have more to say about this on Friday.”

Head to the NSHA website to find a pop-up testing site near you or to book a time at a permanent test site.

About The Author

Victoria Walton

Once a freelancer, Victoria has been a full-time reporter with The Coast since April 2020, covering everything from COVID-19 to small business to politics and social justice. Originally from the Annapolis Valley, she graduated from the University of King’s College School of Journalism in 2017.

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