The number of COVID-19 tests is dropping in Nova Scotia. Here’s why getting tested is still important even if you’ve received the vaccine.

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Wave 3 in Nova Scotia appears to be slowing as the number of cases and hospitalizations decline.

Many Nova Scotians might breathe a sigh of relief now that restrictions are slowly lifted and vaccine rollout is ahead of schedule, but infectious disease expert Dr Lisa Barrett has said we can’t yet relax.

With the number of tests declining in the province, there could be cases of COVID-19 that we are not detecting early enough to stop the spread of the virus.

“I think when people see the number of cases going down, they also think the virus is gone,” she said.

“And I think people forget that there are low levels of the virus that can get really big really quickly, just like what led to the third wave.”

People are “tired”

Just over a week ago, the Nova Scotia Health Laboratories were performing no less than 7,000 tests almost every day. Laboratories significantly increased their capacity during Wave 3 to process between 10,000 and 15,000 tests per day. For many days, they exceeded this capacity.

The number of tests processed since the start of the pandemic peaked at 19,305 tests on May 3.

Infectious disease expert Dr Lisa Barrett said people should continue to get tested regularly for COVID-19 even if they have received a dose of the vaccine. -contributed

Things have changed since the May long weekend. Over the past 10 days, labs have processed about 4,500 tests per day on average.

The use of rapid tests, which was brought back after it was suspended during the height of Wave 3, also plummeted.

“I think the main thing is that people are a little tired. I think they would like to end COVID in some cases, ”Barrett said.

She added that the decreasing numbers are something she is watching, especially that around 20-30% of people have no symptoms or have unrecognized symptoms.

“The only way for us to really and fully know where this virus is in our province is to test for both people with symptoms and people without symptoms,” she said.

Vaccines alone are not enough

The decline in the number of tests coincides with more people receiving their first or second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Between May 20 and June 1, 105,442 doses were administered.

Barrett said some people might feel like if they get the vaccine they can’t get infected, but that’s not true.

Medical laboratory technologist Fred Li monitors the operation of the Cobas 6800 instrument used in COVID-19 tests at the microbiology laboratory at QEII Health Sciences Center in Halifax.  The lab can process 10,000 to 15,000 tests per day.  - Communications Nova Scotia
Medical laboratory technologist Fred Li monitors the operation of the Cobas 6800 instrument used in COVID-19 tests at the microbiology laboratory at QEII Health Sciences Center in Halifax. The lab can process 10,000 to 15,000 tests per day. – Communications Nova Scotia

While serious illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 are dramatically reduced after the first dose, the second injection is needed to achieve enhanced protection against variants and further reduce the risk of infection, he said. she declared.

“Your immune system has, say, a high school education about the virus after the first shot, and it needs that second shot to really make that higher level education really work and to keep that immune response efficient. “

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr Robert Strang previously said the province has identified a number of cases where people have tested positive after receiving the vaccine. He said on Monday that the province was working on collecting the data for public presentation later this week.

As the risk of infection is still present for people who have been vaccinated, we should continue to get tested regularly.

The vaccine’s ability to reduce the chances of severe symptoms developing also means that more people could contract COVID-19 without having any symptoms.

“Therefore, testing during the first dose-only phase of the pandemic is still exceptionally important if we are to completely suppress this virus and prevent it from mutating in our own province. “

People line up for a COVID-19 rapid test at the Halifax Public Library's central branch on Monday, March 1, 2021. Barrett said getting tested should become a weekly habit.  - Tim Krochak
People line up for a COVID-19 rapid test at the Halifax Public Library’s central branch on Monday, March 1, 2021. Barrett said getting tested should become a weekly habit. – Tim Krochak

Home tests soon

Barrett said she suggests people make testing a weekly habit.

She added that she hopes Nova Scotians can get tested in the comfort of their own homes soon.

“Right now, Health Canada is considering allowing some home tests that would be packaged and deliverable to people,” she said.

While these tests aren’t as sensitive as a PCR or rapid test, they can detect many positive cases, Barrett said.

“They (are) also a lot easier for individuals and families to be able to do it at home rather than having to go out to do it, especially in the long term.”

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