HALIFAX -- Nova Scotia's top doctor says parents should prepare for the possibility that schools across the province will remain closed until the end of the academic year to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Dr. Robert Strang, chief medical officer of health, says the province has placed a priority on keeping children in school, but an outbreak that prompted a provincewide lockdown late last month has shown no sign of letting up.

In an interview with CTV News Thursday, Strang said the province can expect infection numbers to remain high in the days to come, which is why virtual learning for schoolchildren will continue -- along with a long list of strict public health rules.

Meanwhile, the government announced Friday that people aged 45 and older can begin booking appointments for the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines at clinics across the province.

As well, the province announced it will begin contacting positive COVID-19 cases and close contacts by text message, when that is an option.

"With case numbers increasing in Nova Scotia, this approach will allow timely notification of positive cases and close contacts so they can immediately begin self-isolation to avoid further spread," public health officials said in a statement.

Premier Iain Rankin has said he's grown frustrated with residents and visitors who aren't taking the pandemic seriously, despite the fact the number of active cases had jumped from 111 two weeks ago to 1,309 on Thursday.

Health officials reported 182 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday -- another record daily high. They said 45 people were in hospital with the disease, including nine in intensive care.

Strang said the lockdown has been in effect for just over a week and it takes two weeks to see the impact from tougher public health measures.

There have been a number of outbreaks in Atlantic Canada since the pandemic began, but the sudden spike in Nova Scotia has been the worst in the region so far.

The previous outbreaks, including one in Newfoundland and Labrador that forced cancellation of in-person voting for a provincial election, were all brought under control in short order, thanks to compliance with tough lockdown rules.

As a result, the Atlantic region has been repeatedly lauded for being a world leader in keeping the virus under control.

Most of the new cases in Nova Scotia have been reported in the Halifax area, but the entire province has been subjected to strict health protocol measures since April 28, which include a ban on travel outside each resident's home municipality.

Rankin and Strang are scheduled to provide an update on the COVID-19 situation Friday afternoon.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 7, 2021.