Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Robert Strang, said it’s highly likely that the provincewide shutdown will stretch past the two-week time period.
Strang said given the extent of the virus’s spread, the province had much more COVID-19 spread in early April than public health was aware of.
“So many people have had no symptoms or mild symptoms and just never got tested… so it’s going to take us a bit of time to get out of this,” Strang said in an interview with Global News Morning on Monday.
The good news is that the Nova Scotia Health Authority’s labs made “significant progress” on Sunday following the huge backlog of tests that was announced on April 20.
Strang said it might take about another day for the labs to go back to meeting their usual turnaround time, which is having the large majority of people getting their results within 48 hours of getting tested.
In the meantime, he said the province is seeing an increase in hospitalization, which needs to be taken seriously.
As of Monday, there were 40 people in hospital, which is six more people than reported Sunday. Six of those patients are in intensive care.
“This new variant, the third wave variant, is a different virus from the first wave. It produces much more illness in young people and can progress very rapidly to severe illness,” said Strang.
“They’re more infectious, they spread more easily, they spread faster… So it is almost like we’re dealing with a totally new virus.”
Strang said last week that Nova Scotia is predominantly seeing the B.1.1.7 variant, first identified in the U.K., but the province is seeing other variants as well.
But despite the possible severity of the new variant, Strang said the province will not change its age-based approach to vaccination.
He said the reason for that is because this approach will have everyone by June vaccinated.
“We’re making very rapid progress. To start to accommodate all these different groups actually slows us down substantially through our central booking process,” Strang said.
As more Nova Scotians get vaccinated, Strang said the public health measures put in place can prevent the spread of COVID-19 even if it’s more contagious now.
“It means we have to be that more careful, each of us, in what we do in terms of following COVID protocols… The way to bring this under control, you have to recognize it and act early on, which we’ve done… but it will take some time to break those chains of transmission,” said Strang.