Nova Scotia is requiring provincial employees and students to self-isolate for 14 days if they return from travelling outside of Canada as a result of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Premier Stephen McNeil, Nova Scotia Health Minister Randy Delorey, the province’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Robert Strang, and the deputy chief medical officer of health, Dr. Gaynor Watson-Creed, delivered the update on Friday.
The directive to self-isolate also applies to children who attend regulated child care in the province and have travelled internationally.
McNeil said that the province will pay its public-sector employees while they self-isolate.
He encouraged the private sector to follow the public sector’s lead on Friday.
Along with the request for private-sector workers to self-isolate, the province said it has asked the federal government to delay the beginning of the cruise ship season, and officials are encouraging people not to have gatherings of more than 150 people.
McNeil said the province will not shut down it’s publicly funded schools as Ontario announced it would do on Thursday.
The decision has raised concerns from the Nova Scotia Teachers Union, which is calling on the province to close down schools temporarily.
“Every public school in Nova Scotia is a daily gathering of more than 150 people, so it’s conflicting messaging that we have to stop those kinds of gathering and yet sending kids and school staff into those settings on a daily basis,” said Paul Wozney, president of the NSTU.
But Dr. Strang says they are continuing to monitor the situation and that decision could change if need be.
“We may end up there. We’re not there yet,” Strang said.
McNeil stressed that despite 226 lab tests being carried out in the province, there are still no confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. However, he said that it is not a question of if, but when, a case of COVID-19 appears in the province.
“This is a public health issue. I don’t think we can stress enough the severity of this issue,” said the premier.
He says if there are concerns someone returning from these places is not self isolating they are encouraged to reach out to their public health agency.— Alicia Draus (@Alicia_Draus) March 13, 2020
Strang echoed the premier’s position.
“We are reliant on our public health measures to slow COVID-19.”
The chief medical officer of health said that the province’s 811 service is receiving a large volume of calls.
Strang stressed that people should only call if they have travelled internationally and are experiencing symptoms of a cough or fever.
People looking for information should not be calling 811, he said. Instead, they should look at the province’s website on the novel coronavirus. There is also a self-diagnosing tool that is available online.
The province has also doubled the number of 811 lines it has available.
Delorey stressed that it is important not to spread misinformation online.
He referenced an image circulating on social media of an article that alleged Cape Breton Island had been locked down as a result of COVID-19. The article is false, the image is modified and Cape Breton has not been shut down.
Delorey said that accurate information — including any possible confirmed case — will be shared by the province as it becomes available.
“Information should be validated and as Dr. Strang has told media, confirmed information will come from the province and the department of health,” he said.