With the arrival of the Omicron COVID-19 variant in Nova Scotia, the province is tightening public health measures and making COVID-19 rapid test kits more easily available to people in the province.
The antigen tests, which use a shallow nasal swab, are typically less reliable than the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, but can deliver results in less than 15 minutes. They can be used right before a family gathering or large public events to help control transmission.
According to the province, rapid testing is offered for people who do not have symptoms, have not travelled, have not visited a potential exposure location, and have not been in contact with someone who has tested positive.
Even though rapid COVID-19 tests are intended to be used by people without symptoms, Nova Scotia Health said they recognize many people are using these tests when they are experiencing symptoms.
If this is the case, they’re recommending that a single negative result cannot be used to rule out COVID-19 in a person with symptoms, to stay at home if sick, and to repeat the test in 48 hours. If a person has close contact with someone who has a positive case, they should not use this test.
“If you receive a negative rapid test but are still experiencing symptoms, stay home and do another rapid test in 48 hours or book a PCR test at a COVID-19 Testing Centre,” N.S. health said.
Rapid results are not available at most of the province’s COVID-19 testing centres, but people can get a rapid test at the several locations listed online at nshealth.ca/coronavirus/covid-19-rapid-testing.
As of Monday, people can also pick up rapid testing kits, which are packaged with five tests, at public libraries across the province. There are 400,000 tests available.
“While we stopped recommending general asymptomatic testing a while ago, we recognize it’s another way to keep gatherings safe over the holidays so we’re making rapid tests more widely available for the season,” said Dr. Robert Strang, chief medical officer of health for Nova Scotia, on Monday.
“Doing a rapid test can add an extra layer of protection if you’re hosting or attending gatherings. Everyone should also get vaccinated, avoid travel, keep your social circle small, wear a mask where required or if you’re in close contact with people outside your circle, and stay home if you’re sick.”
Incoming travellers at the airports in Sydney and Halifax airports, and about 2,000 businesses and organizations in the province are providing rapid tests for employees.
More tests are also being handed out to children aged three to 11 through public and private schools, licensed and unlicensed child-care centres and family resource centres.
— with files from Rebecca Lau