Nova Scotia says it has found its first cases of two COVID-19 variants and is reporting four new COVID-19 cases on Friday.
The four cases mean that Nova Scotia now has 22 active cases of the novel coronavirus.
One case is in the central zone and is related to travel outside of Atlantic Canada. One case is in the northern zone and is a close contact of a previously reported case.
Two cases are in the western zone and are related to travel outside of Atlantic Canada.
In all cases, officials say the individual is self-isolating as required.
However, one of the cases reported in the western zone on Friday is a student at Acadia University in Wolfville. The student had completed the mandatory 14-day self-isolation period but tested positive for the virus shortly afterwards.
Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief officer of health, said the incident is a result of the individual becoming infectious late into their quarantine.
The student was on campus to attend classes on January 18, 19, and 20 before immediately going to be tested when they began to present symptoms.
Officials are working with the schools to test and inform any close contacts.
COVID-19 variants detected for the first time
The two cases of the COVID-19 variant, one U.K. and one South African variant, were detected in cases first recorded in December.
It’s the first time that a COVID-19 variant has been confirmed in the province.
But as a result of the delay in the detection — samples must be submitted to the National Microbiology Laboratory for sequencing — those cases are already confirmed to be recovered.
Neither of the variant cases resulted in the spread of the virus in the community but one individual spread the virus to those in their household.
However, as a result of low viral loads in their samples Nova Scotia is unable to confirm that the members of that household had the COVID-19 variant.
“The variants don’t require us to do anything different than we already are,” said Strang during Friday’s update. “It’s just a reminder about how we must remain vigilant.”
He said the national lab is currently waiting for the results of 20 to 30 samples being tested for COVID-19 variants.
Strang said batches of samples are being submitted every two weeks and the province will provide updates if any more cases are confirmed.
Health protocols, state of emergency extended
Strang and Premier Stephen McNeil announced on Friday that they will be extending the majority of province’s health restrictions until at least Feb. 7.
“We are still in the middle of a severe second wave of COVID-19 with other provinces and countries facing high case numbers, including our neighbours in New Brunswick,” said Premier McNeil.
“That’s why we are continuing our cautious approach in easing restrictions as we focus on protecting Nova Scotians from the virus.”
That means gathering limits at home and in the community will remain at 10, while retail and malls will continue to operate at only 50 per cent capacity.
Social events are still not permitted and restaurants and licensed establishments must stop service by 10 p.m. and close by 11 p.m.
However, some restrictions — focused on sports, arts and culture — are being relaxed starting Jan. 25.
The changes include:
- Sports teams can start playing games although spectators are still not permitted
- There can be no games or tournaments involving teams that would not regularly play against each other
- Non-team sports can resume competition, however, spectators are not permitted
- The limit for sports practices, training and games and arts and culture rehearsals and classes will return to 50 attendees
- Arts and culture performances can only be virtual and cannot have in-person spectators
Although the province is reporting four new cases, Nova Scotia’s COVID-19 dashboard will indicate five new cases on Friday. That is the result of one of the cases first reported on Thursday not making the reporting cut off.
That case is related to École Acadienne de Truro, a pre-primary to Grade 12 school.
The school has closed for cleaning and sanitization and is expected to reopen on Jan. 27. Until then, students will switch to online learning.
More than 10,000 COVID-19 doses administered
As of Jan. 22, 10,575 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered. A total of 2,705 Nova Scotians have received their second dose.
There have been 1,570 cases of the virus since the pandemic began in March, of which 1,483 are considered to be resolved.
The province completed 1,450 tests on Thursday, boosting the province’s total completed tests to 272,213.
Officials have recorded 65 deaths in the province. There is no one in hospital at this time.