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Rules tightened for visitors to N.S. from outside Atlantic after COVID-19 cases spike

HALIFAX — In a bid to subdue a small but sudden spike in COVID-19 cases, Nova Scotia has introduced strict new rules for people arriving in the province from outside the Atlantic region.

HALIFAX — In a bid to subdue a small but sudden spike in COVID-19 cases, Nova Scotia has introduced strict new rules for people arriving in the province from outside the Atlantic region. 

With 15 new cases reported in less than a week, Premier Stephen McNeil announced Monday that travellers from outside the region must isolate for 14 days on their own, instead of with family or friends. 

"We are very concerned by how quickly these cases are creeping up and the potential exposure that might exist," McNeil told a news conference in Halifax. "We have been there and we don't want to go back. That's why we need to crack down quickly but carefully."

The premier said someone who recently arrived in Nova Scotia stayed in quarantine inside a residence but managed to infect other people in the home.

"That stops today," he said.

"If you are not able to isolate alone, then everyone in that household isolates together for 14 days . . . . You don't go to work, you don't go to school and you don't go to the grocery store or a restaurant."

The premier went on to say he is worried about a sudden cluster of infections in Halifax's Clayton Park neighbourhood, where a mobile testing unit has been dispatched to offer rapid testing. 

Dr. Robert Strang, chief medical officer of health for Nova Scotia, said the province doesn't plan to go back into lockdown unless it's "absolutely necessary" but will address outbreaks on a case-by-case basis.

"This time around . . . our plan is to, if at all possible, take a much more targeted approach based on geography, various sectors and high-risk populations," Strang said. "Our goal is to contain COVID, not to have zero cases, but to not have wide community spread."

Strang did not clarify whether the Clayton Park cluster represented community spread of the disease, but he did say groups that were "socially connected" have often been the source of infections in the Halifax neighbourhood.

"I'm not at a point where I'm going to conclude where we have general community spread but I'm also not at a point where I can rule that out either," Strang told reporters.

McNeil said the province is poised to introduce new self-isolation rules for so-called rotational workers now that the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a rapidly growing caseload across the country.

"Compared with the rest of the country, we look pretty good," McNeil said. "But a number of my colleagues across the country would say they were doing well, too. Then, out of nowhere, they went from a dozen cases to hundreds of cases in no time at all."

The premier said Nova Scotia is considering using the same strategy that Newfoundland and Labrador is using for its rotational workers, which typically includes people who work for short stints outside the province in work camps, the offshore or in the airline industry, and then return home for a brief break. 

In Newfoundland and Labrador, workers who travel within Canada but outside of the Atlantic provinces and the communities along the Labrador-Quebec border must self-isolate for either seven days with a negative COVID-19 test or 14 days without a test upon return to the province. 

Testing can occur any time after Day 5.

During self-isolation, rotational workers without symptoms can interact with family members in their household without physical distancing, and they can go outside on their property. As well, they can go for a walk, ride a bike or drive, while maintaining physical distancing with those outside their household.

However, these workers are not permitted to enter public places, including grocery stores and shopping malls. And they must not visit family members outside of their household or allow members of the family's expanded bubble to enter the household while they are isolating.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 9, 2020.

Michael MacDonald and Danielle Edwards, The Canadian Press

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