Students coming to Nova Scotia from outside Atlantic bubble to receive mandatory coronavirus tests

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Students coming to Nova Scotia from outside Atlantic bubble to receive mandatory coronavirus tests
WATCH: Post-secondary students coming to Nova Scotia from outside the Atlantic bubble will receive three COVID-19 tests during their mandatory two-week isolation period, the province announced on Thursday. Elizabeth McSheffrey has more – Aug 20, 2020

Premier Stephen McNeil has announced that post-secondary students coming to Nova Scotia from outside the Atlantic bubble will be required to take three COVID-19 tests during their isolation period.

Anyone coming from outside the bubble is already required to self-isolate for 14 days, but now all university and Nova Scotia Community College students will be tested for the novel coronavirus.

“If students are asymptomatic, these tests should help us detect COVID,” McNeil told reporters on Thursday.

“Every campus will have a place for their students to be tested, they will know those kids when they come in, when they arrive, and then testing will begin on their first day here.”

Read more: Nova Scotia reports 1 new case of coronavirus Thursday

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Even if the results are negative, the isolation period must be completed, reads a Thursday a news release. It also clarifies, students cannot attend in-person classes until their testing and self-isolation are complete and they receive negative test results.

The policy is effective immediately and includes those who are already self-isolating.

“It does make sense to me because you can’t catch (COVID-19) right away necessarily,” said Dalhousie University first-year law student Bren Slater, who will be arriving in Halifax from Toronto later this week.

“Like if you just get one test when you come in, it still might not be accurate. It’s being extra careful, which I think is a good thing.”

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Read more: Union leaders raise safety concerns over Nova Scotia’s back-to-school plan

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Saint Mary’s University Student Association president Bryn de Chastelain said he’s pleased to see the new testing strategy in place. Like Slater, De Chastelain will be among the first batch of students to be tested under the protocol.

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“I definitely feel safer,” the Ontario native told Global News.

“I feel safer in terms of not bringing anything back from when I’ve been outside of the province, and similarly, I think I’ll feel more comfortable when I’m out of isolation and able to contribute to the community again.”

READ MORE: As pandemic plan progresses, Maritime universities plan for all possibilities next semester

According to the provincial website, self-isolation means going directly to a destination and staying there for 14 days, or for the duration of the stay if it’s less than two weeks. During that time frame, residents are instructed not to not take a bus while in self-isolation and to avoid taking a taxi if possible.

But students will be required to break that self-isolation in order to receive their three COVID-19 tests, which raises questions and concerns for some.

“I understand the worry of the influx of people into Nova Scotia for the start of the school year; however, I do not understand how forcing students (and only students) to leave their isolation for mandatory testing mitigates this risk,” wrote Dalhousie University law student and Ontario resident Mallory Gallant.

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“Students often live in apartment buildings or multi-unit dwellings, and requiring students to leave their isolation can put others who live in those buildings at unnecessary risk of exposure.”

Gallant also said the new requirements suggest that the government “does not trust young people” to follow isolation orders.

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The Province says each university’s and NSCC’s re-opening plans have been approved by health officials and the advanced education department.

“Along with testing, everyone following the public health measures — students completing their self-isolation and social distancing — and the plans the institutions have put in place will help keep students, staff and surrounding communities safe during the school year,” said Dr. Gaynor Watson-Creed, deputy chief medical officer of health for Nova Scotia, in a news statement.

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The government is also enhancing the border form for everyone — not just students — who arrive in the province from outside the Atlantic bubble.

The new Nova Scotia Safe Check-in will be a digital check-in that will replace follow up phone calls to ensure people are self-isolating.

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