Nova Scotia lifts COVID-19 health order, no more weekly case reporting

Click to play video: 'COVID no longer a global emergency, WHO declares'
COVID no longer a global emergency, WHO declares
World Health Organization director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus announced on Friday that the COVID-19 pandemic was no longer a global health emergency and said the decision came after the organization's emergency committee made the recommendation. – May 5, 2023

Nova Scotia is lifting its COVID-related Health Protection Act order and will no longer report cases in its weekly COVID-19 dashboard.

In a release Tuesday, the province said that with the World Health Organization declaring that COVID-19 no longer requires a global emergency-type response, the disease will now be treated similarly to other respiratory illnesses like influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).

It said the change means the Health Protection Act order related to COVID-19, which came into effect in March 2020 and allowed the chief medical officer of health to impose restrictions to combat its spread, is “no longer necessary.”

During a news conference Tuesday, chief medical officer of health Dr. Robert Strang said while COVID-19 is still here, the province no longer needs an emergency response plan.

“By no means does today’s update mean that the COVID-19 virus is gone, but rather that it is now at a stage that we can respond to it and live with it, like we do with all other respiratory viruses,” he said.

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Strang said the province will take a more “general approach” by integrating COVID-19 into its respiratory illness program ahead of the upcoming respiratory illness season in the fall.

He noted that much of the COVID-19 guidance during the pandemic was similar to previous messaging during respiratory illness season: wash your hands, stay up-to-date on vaccinations, and stay home if you’re feeling sick.

Strang said much of that pre-pandemic guidance fell on “deaf ears,” and he hopes that will change.

“I hope what we’ve learned from our last three years of the pandemic is that … we have to, all of us, show greater respect for respiratory viruses,” he said.

People can protect themselves, said Strang, by continuing to take precautions such as masking and getting vaccinated.

Effective Tuesday, the province is also lifting its mandatory vaccination protocol for high-risk settings, such as health-care facilities, long-term care homes, and correctional facilities, as well as directives around COVID-19 management in long-term care facilities.

“Employers and operators of high-risk settings will be responsible for policies about COVID-19, including masking and whether employees, outside service providers and volunteers need to be vaccinated,” the release from the province said.

“Public health has provided guidance for operators of congregate settings on COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses.”

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The COVID-19 dashboard, which tracks cases in the province, will also be updated for the last time on May 25, though the province will continue to report data in its monthly COVID-19 report.

“We are not at a point where we need such frequent updates,” Strang said during the news conference.

Beginning in October, COVID-19 data will be reported with other respiratory illnesses in Respiratory Watch, a document produced by public health.

According to the dashboard, as of May 15, there were 23 people in hospital due to COVID-19, five of whom were in intensive care. A total of 865 people have died of COVID-19 in Nova Scotia since March 2020.

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