SYDNEY, N.S. -- While Nova Scotia’s third COVID-19 wave is still hitting hardest in the Halifax area, provincial health officials say there are clusters of concerns in several other communities, including the Sydney area.

There was a lineup to get tested Monday outside the COVID-19 testing site at the Grand Lake Road Fire Hall.

The province has stepped up testing in the Sydney area, after it was one of several communities identified over the weekend as an ‘area of concern’ by public health.

“As a mom of a toddler, anything like that is always concerning, but I think there are things we can do as a community to protect each other,” says Sydney resident Katherine Snow.

In addition to regular testing, the province is encouraging Nova Scotians to book their vaccine appointment at the earliest date possible.

On Monday, there was a steady stream of people coming and going from the vaccination clinic at the Cape Breton University Canada Games Complex.

“It’s getting pretty scary,” says Sydney resident Kristen MacIntosh. “But if you keep close to home, and people keep coming and getting vaccinated, hopefully there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.”

The province says testing has been increased in several communities that are showing multiple cases with an unknown source, particularly in Sydney, Bridgewater and the Annapolis Valley from New Minas to Kentville.

“I think we’re all on a little more heightened awareness of that. Certainly there’s no panic,” says David Mitchell, mayor of Bridgewater.

Mitchell says more people in his community have been coming out to get tested in recent days, but not all vaccination slots in the area are fully booked up.

“For example, one day they just opened up 30 appointments. And my understanding is, I think most areas could fill them quicker,” says Mitchell.

The province’s latest vaccination data shows 40.9 per cent of Nova Scotians over the age of 16 have received at least one dose.

But officials say there are still plenty of open appointment slots, including Tuesday at the Canada Games Complex.

“You’ll see on social media, someone will say ‘Ah, I couldn’t get an appointment for a couple weeks’, and I think that translates into everyone thinking ‘oh, there’s no appointments for a few weeks’. When really it could be for a certain age, or a certain vaccine,” says Mitchell.

“I think we’re known for looking after each other, no matter what,” says Katherine Snow.

The province says it will continue to monitor these hotspot areas for community spread, with the hope that increased testing will shed more light on where the virus is, and how it’s spreading.