Testing strategy, border requirements changed

HALIFAX: The province announced changes to its testing strategy for post-secondary students and for those entering Nova Scotia.

Premier Stephen McNeil, after consultation with the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health, announced on August 20, that post-secondary students entering the province from outside Atlantic Canada will require testing for COVID-19 along with 14 days of self-isolation.

“Testing university and NSCC students during their self-isolation periods can help with early detection and management of cases in the post-secondary population,” said Dr. Gaynor Watson-Creed, deputy chief medical officer of health for Nova Scotia. “Along with testing, everyone following the public health measures — students completing their self-isolation and social distancing – and the plans the institutions have put in place will help keep students, staff and surrounding communities safe during the school year.”

Students inside the Atlantic bubble only need to self-isolate if they travelled outside the bubble in the past 14 days.

Marla MacInnis, media relations advisor with the Department of Health and Wellness, explained students must get tested three times during their isolation period, including students who arrive in Nova Scotia on or after August 20, as well as students who are already in the province and self-isolating.

The testing requirement applies to all university and Nova Scotia Community College students arriving in Nova Scotia from outside Atlantic Canada, effective immediately, including those who are currently self-isolating.

Even with negative test results, the full 14-day self-isolation period must be completed. Students cannot attend in-person classes until their testing and self-isolation are complete and they have received negative test results.

Universities and NSCC are contacting their students directly with information about these requirements and the process for getting tested. Students should direct any questions to their institutions.

“Each institution is sending all their students an e-mail with instructions to complete the Nova Scotia Safe Check-in,” MacInnis explained. “Students will receive instructions based on the information they submit.”

Each university and NSCC has a re-opening plan on its Web site that has been approved by the chief medical officer of health and the Department of Labour and Advanced Education.

Although there are testing centres on or near each campus in the province, Nova Scotia Health is setting up additional testing centres to test students during their self-isolation.

In June, the StFX board of governors approved a recommendation to welcome students back to the campus beginning Monday, September 14.

The Antigonish university said it will offer mixed-method course delivery, with most classes taking place in-person and some being offered on-line.

Students planning to live in residence and travelling from out-of-province were contacted in July by University Housing to schedule their arrival time on August 30 or 31, two weeks before the official beginning of the fall term. Students planning to live in residence and not requiring self-isolation, were contacted in July to schedule their arrival date between September 10 and 13.

Off-campus students travelling from outside Atlantic Canada must make arrangements to arrive in Antigonish so that their self-isolation period will end by the start of classes on Monday, September 14. All off-campus students will be required to submit a health and travel declaration form to Student Life prior to arriving to Antigonish and will be required to check in at a designated, central location.

All students, whether living on or off-campus, will be required to adhere to the health and safety guidelines throughout the academic year. Failure to do so will be a serious violation of the Community Code and may even result in expulsion from the university.

The province is also enhancing the border form for everyone arriving in the province from outside the Atlantic bubble. The new Nova Scotia Safe Check-in allows better data collection and tracking. A digital check-in will soon replace follow up phone calls to ensure people are self-isolating. The Nova Scotia Safe Check-in is at: https://novascotia.ca/coronavirus/travel/.