Nova Scotia's top doctor is hopeful the Omicron wave has nearly reached its peak and awaits a decline in case numbers across the province.
"Our cases remain high but relatively steady," Dr. Strang, chief medical officer of health, said. "I hope we're near the peak of this Omicron wave, but we're not yet seeing any real decline. Our hospitalizations have moderately increased, but so far the health system is managing despite many health care workers off sick or isolating."
On Tuesday, Nova Scotia reported 561 new COVID-19 cases.
The province reported 689 new COVID-19 cases on Dec. 23, breaking its record for the highest number of new cases reported in a single day.
But during Tuesday's virtual COVID-19 briefing, Dr. Strang said people no longer have to report positive COVID-19 test results from rapid tests to Public Health.
Instead, the province's surveillance will be based on its PCR testing and there will be a greater focus on hospitalization data.
This week, Nova Scotia made PCR testing available for only some groups of people, particularly those who are most at risk of severe disease and hospitalization, due to the high number of cases in the province.
Anyone else who has COVID-like symptoms or is designated as a close contact of a positive case must use rapid tests kits and self-manage — including notifying potential close contacts — if they test positive.
"I also want to be clear that there is not a shortage of rapid tests," Dr. Strang said. "If you need a test, you will be able to access one. You can access rapid test kits through all of our primary assessment centres if you meet the criteria for testing as a possible case or contact.
"We are also working diligently to increase access points, especially in rural communities. What we cannot continue to do is have widespread asymptomatic testing."
In a Dec. 24 news release, Dr. Strang said people should not be using rapid test kits every few days just to feel safe. Instead, rapid test kits should be used by people who are close contacts or have symptoms.
"Please don't hoard test kits — there is no need," he said. "We have a good supply of rapid tests and we're ordering more but the supply is not limitless. We all need to use that supply responsibly and unselfishly."
Moreover, Public Health's direct support will continue to be targeted toward people living in settings where there's a risk of an outbreak among high-risk people. That includes places such as long-term care facilities, group homes and shelters.
During the briefing, Dr. Strang said there's a trend of rising hospitalizations in other Canadian provinces, meaning Nova Scotia must keep a close eye on that situation.
He added that there's often a delay of two to three weeks between cases and hospitalizations.
"The variant and the way it's spreading is causing us to change the way we manage and respond to COVID-19," he said. "We are not going to stop the spread of this variant like we did in other waves. Our goal, now, is to slow it down to protect our most vulnerable."