HALIFAX -- Nova Scotia is increasing its capacity to test for COVID-19.

"Testing is an important part of the public health measures," said N.S. Premier Stephen McNeil. "Our testing strategy has been working very well, but there are always improvements we can make. These changes will allow people to be tested easier and faster."

The province says that by the third week of October, Halifax’s IWK Health Centre will expand its primary assessment centre to double its capacity and increase the speed of testing for children.

Beginning Oct. 7, the IWK Health Centre will start using the ‘gargle test’ to diagnose COVID-19 in children ages four to 18.

The province says the gargle test is a more comfortable test for children, and after the process begins at the IWK, the gargle test will soon be available for children at all primary assessment centres.

Online booking for testing appointments will also be available. 

The province says online booking will dramatically reduce the wait time to book an appointment, as the online process will take about 10 minutes, down from 24 to 48 hours.

"Testing is a key part of our overall COVID-19 response," said Dr. Robert Strang. "When active cases and new cases are low, we can become complacent. It can be easy to not want to get a test or wear a mask if you think there's no virus here. In fact, it is just as important as ever."

The province has also committed to increase lab capacity in Halifax to process 2,500 tests per day by mid-November, expand primary assessment centres with larger locations, longer hours and more staff, and add equipment in Sydney to eventually process tests instead of sending them to Halifax.

The province says primary assessment centres have collected an average of 752 samples for testing per day since the beginning of September

Current lab capacity in Halifax is 1,500 tests per day and an average of 958 samples per day have been processed since the beginning of September.