Nova Scotia reported no new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, for the first time since June 23.
There are now 28 active cases in the province, and two people in hospital. One of the patients is in ICU.
The province also reported that the National Microbiology Lab has confirmed 20 Delta variant cases and 36 Alpha variant cases in Nova Scotia. These cases were previously reported.
During the province’s 150th COVID-19 briefing of the pandemic, Dr. Robert Strang, chief medical officer of health, said he wasn’t surprised the lab identified the variants.
“The Delta variant is in our province and has been in our province and we know that two doses of vaccine are needed for good protection against this variant strain,” he said.
He said the third wave of the virus in the province was driven by the Alpha variant, and he cautioned there’s a risk the Delta variant could lead to a fourth wave.
Strang admitted he sounded like a broken record, and said it is vital Nova Scotians step up for their second doses of a COVID-19 vaccine for maximum protection.
He pointed out that other parts of the world that are seeing a resurgence of the virus are dealing with the Delta variant in combination with under-immunized populations.
“The defence against the Delta variant and what we need to do to minimize the chance of a fourth wave is that high two-dose coverage,” he said.
“However, if we did somehow get a resurgence … the tools you use against the Delta variant are exactly the tools we have used previously: restrictions, mandatory health measures, contact tracing, enhancing testing. Our strong desire and why we’re focusing on vaccine is to never have to use those again.”
Phase 4 of reopening begins
The province has now entered the fourth phase of its plan to reopen and loosen restrictions.
As of Wednesday, full operation of retail stores may resume and larger public gatherings are allowed.
The reopening plan is going ahead because the province reached its target of having 75 per cent of its entire population with at least one dose of a vaccine.
During Wednesday’s briefing, Premier Iain Rankin said the low case numbers and growing vaccination rates were laudable but no reason to let down our guard.
“You’ve earned the right to larger gatherings, later hours and a lot more activity. This doesn’t mean that we are out of the woods yet,” he said.
As for when the province might be able to move into the fifth and final phase of the reopening plan, Strang said it appears the province is on track for the end of summer, based on vaccine delivery and contingent on people filling up those appointments.
“While I do not believe we’ll ever return to a pre-COVID normal, I think there will be a new normal that will see us living more freely and openly with COVID-19,” he said.
“The lessons that the world has learned from COVID will forever change how we manage and respond to all these respiratory viruses.”
Nova Scotia Health Authority’s labs completed 3,691 tests on Tuesday.
As of Tuesday, 1,154,785 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered. Of those, 434,537 Nova Scotians have received their second dose.
Since April 1, there have been 4,128 positive COVID-19 cases and 26 deaths.
There are 4,074 resolved cases.
— With files from The Canadian Press and Aya Al-Hakim