HALIFAX -- Nova Scotia health authorities are ramping up testing efforts as the province reported a record-breaking 63 new cases of COVID-19 Sunday -- the highest single-day increase since the province has recorded since the pandemic first emerged last spring.

There are now 263 active reported infections in the province, 115 of which were identified over the weekend.

As he tweeted Sunday's numbers, Premier Iain Rankin didn't include a message urging people to stay home as he did on Saturday. Instead, he congratulated Nova Scotians for "stepping up" and "getting tested in big numbers."

"We can't let up!" he wrote.

To curb the latest spike in case numbers, provincial health officials have once again turned to mass testing, an effort that helped them beat back a surge of community spread in the Halifax region late last year.

There were 7,520 COVID-19 tests completed across the province on Saturday, according to the Department of health. Nearly two-thirds of those were completed at rapid-testing pop-up sites in Halifax, Dartmouth and Sackville, the department said in a news release Sunday.

Officials said 502,922 tests have been completed since the onset of the pandemic. That's more than half the provincial population.

Pamela Willis, a 34-year-old accountant from Montreal who has been living in Halifax for the past two years, said she's now been tested five times and figures her friends have been screened at least as often.

"I'd say probably at least 80 per cent of people I know have been tested in the last four days," she said in an interview Sunday, describing the the mass testing efforts as "really unique to Nova Scotia."

Willis said she was swabbed for a rapid test on Friday at the pop-up clinic in the sprawling convention centre in downtown Halifax.

"It's literally just a giant room ... set up almost like army hospital-style, where it's just chairs and chairs, and people getting giant Q-tip thingies shoved up their nose," Willis said.

The test took a few minutes, she said, and her negative result was texted to her phone shortly afterward.

There are also rapid-testing sites set up at the East Dartmouth Community Centre and the Alderney Gate Public Library, also in Dartmouth. Dropping in somewhere for a quick COVID-19 test is now almost routine in Halifax, Willis said. She waited in line for an hour for her test on Friday, but even that part of the process has become widely accepted, she said.

With cases now on the rise again in the region and community spread confirmed, Willis said residents are once again on their toes and back on social media, urging one another to get tested.

"It comes down to being a responsible citizen," she said.

Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for Dalhousie University said students from the school were involved in a Friday-night party which was allegedly dispersed by Halifax Regional Police. The force said Saturday they issued 22 summary offence tickets to people at the "large social gathering," each carrying a $1,000 fine for breaching public health orders.

"We're actively looking into this matter, have identified Dal students in attendance, and are considering immediate suspension and all other options available under the Code of Student Conduct," Janet Bryson said in an email Sunday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 25, 2021.