COVID-19 Update March 24, 2020 7:15 PM

Premier Stephen McNeil and chief medical officer of health Dr. Robert Strang provided an update earlier today, March 24. A recording of the news conference is available here: A short audio recap from Dr. Strang is available at .

Details of measures to strengthen the health system and help Nova Scotians dealing with COVID-19 announced today are outlined below:

— increased testing for COVID-19 — public health officials have begun testing all close contacts of positive cases

— lab capacity is doubling to accommodate increased testing

— expanding virtual care for physicians, nurse practitioners and others so they can offer appointments to patients through telephone or video, minimizing the need to leave the house; more than 80 providers have signed up for video so far

— 811 has increased staff and technology and is now answering 50 per cent more calls; on April 3, 811 will again double its capacity

— enhanced infection control measures at hospitals to protect health-care workers and the public include reassigning and adding new staff to increase the frequency of cleaning and disinfection; focusing on high-risk areas and high-traffic areas and high-touch surfaces; using stronger cleaning products

— regulated health professions can only stay open for emergency or urgent cases or to provide virtual care, as long as they can meet social distancing requirements in their waiting room or other non-clinical areas and follow the cleaning protocol

— non-regulated health professions (such as naturopaths) must close. One exception is podiatrists who must follow the directive related to regulated health professions

— Access Centres and Registry of Motor Vehicle Offices will start to resume operations in a scaled back, limited contact business model. Staff working out of Access Centres and Registry of Motor Vehicle offices in Amherst, Bridgewater, Dartmouth, Kentville, Stellarton, Sydney and Yarmouth will be available to help people with urgent matters by calling 1-800-670-4357. In addition, government has extended deadlines for more vehicle permits, registrations and renewals until Aug.31. Drop-off boxes for applicable services will also be available at Access Centres in Amherst, Bridgewater, Dartmouth, Kentville, Stellarton, Sydney and Yarmouth. Many of the services are also available online.

Essential service sectors in Nova Scotia, which are exempt from the five-person-or-fewer gathering rules, have been clarified and are:

— health

— food, agri-food and fisheries

— transportation, including trucking, rail and transit

— construction and manufacturing

— IT, telecommunications and critical infrastructure

— public services, such as police, fire and ambulances

Individual business in these sectors must still maintain social distancing and other public health protocols.

A copy of a Health Protection Act Order from Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health, has been posted online at

The full news release is available at: and in French at:

To date, Nova Scotia has 51 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 2,474 negative test results. The news release is available at: and in French at:

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