Nova Scotia is joining other provinces in dropping the isolation period for those who test positive for COVID-19 and their close contacts.
For the most part, fully vaccinated Nova Scotians and children aged 11 and younger will have to isolate for seven days following the onset of symptoms or a positive test if asymptomatic. Currently, the requirement is 10 days.
“The reason we say children under 12 is they have not yet had time to get two doses,” explained Dr. Strang, chief medical officer of health, during a briefing on Wednesday.
In contrast, other jurisdictions, including Quebec and Alberta, recently dropped their isolation periods to five days.
Strang said the changes are based on the latest evidence that shows a person with the Omicron variant is most infectious in a couple of days before and after symptoms develop.
“We know that having close contacts isolate is creating huge impacts on our workforce, so I feel at this stage that this is where we can make some changes to alleviate some of those pressures that are happening in sectors across the province,” Strang said.
The changes in Nova Scotia take effect this Friday at 6 a.m.
The changes do not apply to people who work in a high-risk healthcare setting, such as hospitals, home care and long-term care facilities.
What are the new rules?
The new isolation rules apply to a rapid test or lab-based PCR test results and are based on a person’s age, household situation and vaccination status.
For example, a fully vaccinated person or child aged 11 or younger must isolate for a minimum of seven days following the onset of symptoms or a positive test if asymptomatic. They can leave isolation after Day 7 if there are no symptoms or symptoms are “improving” and there has been no fever for at least 24 hours.
Meanwhile, an unvaccinated or partially-vaccinated, or immunocompromised person who tests positive must isolate for a minimum of 10 days.
As for close contacts, a fully-vaccinated person or child 11 or younger should get tested 72 hours after exposure and watch for symptoms. If they take a PCR test, no further testing is needed unless there are symptoms. In the case they take a rapid test, they should do a second rapid test 48 hours later.
In the meantime, until they receive their negative test result, they should take precautions such as staying home except to go to school, work or child care. They should “practice physical distancing when at work or school” and only do essential activities such as getting groceries.
For unvaccinated and immunocompromised people who haven’t had a booster and are considered a close contact of a positive case, they must immediately isolate for seven days. They can only leave isolation after two negative rapid tests on Day 6 and 8 or after one negative PCR test on Day 6 or 7.
The province noted that if someone with COVID-19 can isolate “completely separately” from the rest of the household, then other members can follow the directions for “close contacts.” But if the person cannot isolate separately, then everyone in the household must isolate along with them — regardless of vaccination status — and should be tested on Day 3 or 4 and again on the last day of isolation.
“This is a lot of information and we know it is complex, and it is going to take some time for people to understand all the changes that we have made in the last few weeks,” said Strang.
“I know for many people this is a confusing time.”
Strang said he is aware there is a lot of demand for testing and vaccination appointments, but that people need to be patient. He said as recently as today, police presence was necessary at testing sites because of behaviour towards healthcare staff.
“This is the most difficult stage of the pandemic. We are all ready to move on, but COVID isn’t ready to let that happen just yet.”
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