HALIFAX -- Anyone who is exempt from the self-isolation order in Nova Scotia will be required to get a COVID-19 test when arriving by ferry from Newfoundland and Labrador, beginning Sunday.

Nova Scotia Public Health says testing will take place at the Marine Atlantic ferry terminal in North Sydney, N.S. Other passengers on the ferry, who are currently required to self-isolate for 14 days when returning from Newfoundland and Labrador, can also get tested if they choose.

"Testing is a key part of our defence against COVID-19. Given the variant strain and case numbers in Newfoundland, this is an added precaution to help protect everyone," said Premier Stephen McNeil.

Nova Scotia’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang says a combination of rapid tests and PCR swabs will be used to for the ferry testing.

“We’ll be using a combination of rapid test, because they give an immediate test on the ferry, which is important, but any tests that are positive will have to be confirmed. We’re also going to be using PCR tests and the lab in Cape Breton,” said Strang during Friday’s news update.

Health officials say testing at the North Sydney ferry terminal is only available for people who are passengers or crew.

People who are exempt from Nova Scotia’s self-isolation order, include:

  • certain workers who must travel for their jobs
  • people who are dropping off or picking up a child within about 24 hours as part of a legal custody agreement
  • people traveling to and from essential health services, with accompanying support people
  • people can participate in a legal proceeding but must otherwise self-isolate

Exempt travellers do not need to self-isolate while waiting for test results and if an exempt traveller arrives by ferry daily or almost every day, they can get tested once per week.

Health officials continue to urge Nova Scotians to get tested, even if they do not have COVID-19 symptoms. Pop-up rapid testing sites remain available for those who are 16 and older and have no COVID-19 symptoms.

Testing sites for those with symptoms also continue to be available by appointment around Nova Scotia at primary assessment centres.

"Even if you only have a tickle in your throat or a runny nose, don't assume it's just a cold. Get tested to be sure it's not COVID-19," said Strang. "Regular testing is the best way to detect cases early and help prevent them from spreading."

People who have one mild symptom, other than fever or worsening cough, are not required to self-isolate while waiting for their test results. Public health says the online self-assessment tool will be updated to reflect this information.