Nova Scotia putting extra measures in place to prevent COVID-19
HALIFAX -- Nova Scotia officials say that while there have been no confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in the province yet, they expect it is inevitable that it will arrive in the province.
"While we are fortunate to have no cases of COVID-19 in the province, we expect to see cases here very soon," said Premier Stephen McNeil in a news conference on Friday.
The province is now enforcing new measures for any public sector employees, teachers and students who have travelled outside of Canada, requiring them to self-isolate for 14 days upon their return to the province. Public sector employees will be paid during their time in self-isolation.
“We believe it is necessary to prevent the spread,” said McNeil.
Premier Stephen McNeil, Nova Scotia Health Minister Randy Delorey and, Dr. Robert Strang, provided an update on the province's response to the COVID-19 novel coronavirus at a news conference on Friday.
Dr. Robert Strang, the province’s chief medical officer of health says the province has received 226 test results back from labs, with all coming back negative, but says he expects that could change any time.
Strang says that travellers returning from Italy and other areas where the virus is widespread are being given information about self isolation when they return and their contact information is being passed to health officials to follow up.
The province is also encouraging public gatherings to be limited to 150 people for the time being. Strang says that measure could apply to events like school gatherings, weddings, church services, movie theatres and concerts, and is intended to protect vulnerable Nova Scotians who are greatest risk.
When asked about public schools, McNeil said that there were no plans to close them at this time, as there is no guarantee that students who have travelled internationally would have time to self-isolate for the required 14 days before they reopen.
McNeil said the province is working with universities and colleges to ensure that they are following the new protocol.
“You’re seeing other provinces become more directive, but those are the provinces with confirmed cases,” said Dr. Robert Strang.
Randy Delorey, Minister of Health and Wellness, says public health needs the support of citizens and government to keep the virus at bay. “There a lot of people...working extra-long hours to stay up-to-date on an evolving situation,” he says. “This work will continue.”
Strang also spoke about the province’s 811 phone line that Nova Scotians have been urged to call if they have travelled out of the country and have a cough or fever.
While the province has doubled the number of operators on the 811 line from roughly 40 to more than 90, Strang says there is a lot of pressure on the line and it should not be used by the public looking for information.
Delorey also spoke about the spread of misinformation, saying that someone had tried to pass off a fake story about coronavirus, including fake quotes attributed to himself. Delorey reiterates that anyone looking for legitimate COVID-19 information should visit the government website.
Meanwhile, the province of Quebec has announced that the province is closing all daycares, schools, CEGEPS and Universities.
The Nova Scotia Teachers Union believes Nova Scotia should be doing the same.
“The only way to ensure that people who are returning from international destinations who maybe are carriers don’t come to school, is to close school” says NSTU president Paul Wozney. “Nova Scotia can’t afford to be playing catch-up on this.”
Wozney is also wondering how schools will limit gatherings of 150 people or more, especially in large schools where students eat in cafeterias.
“They can’t staff lunch monitors properly across the province,” he says. “We have schools that are drastically overcrowded. CP Allen is designed for 1200 kids, it’s got 1600 students, a cafeteria designed for 600. You’re not going to get those kids to eat in shifts.”
He’s also unsure how the system will replace teachers who may have self-quarantine.
“We have a substitute teacher shortage in Nova Scotia, period,” he says. “We already know that we’re going to have hundreds of teachers that have to self-quarantine, we don’t have the bodies to replace them.”
In New Brunswick, more than 1300 students and staff are staying home in self-isolation for 14 days, after the same type of travel policy was put in place Monday.