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US coronavirus vaccine poised for final testing: Live updates – Al Jazeera English

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  • Researchers in the United States say that the first vaccine tested in the country had worked to boost patients’ immune systems and is set for final testing. This is as the number of cases nationwide rose by 65,682 for a total of 3.45 million with at least 919 new deaths added to the tally of around 136,000.

  • The blood from seriously ill coronavirus patients on ventilators was found by researchers to be highly inflammatory and harmful to the body, the South China Morning Post reported on Wednesday, citing a study by Dutch scientists.

  • South Africa has surpassed the United Kingdom in its number of confirmed coronavirus cases, according to its health ministry and data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. It now has the world’s eighth-highest number of confirmed cases with 298,292 and over 4,300 deaths.

  • More than 13.29 million people around the world have been diagnosed with COVID-19, 7.37 million have recovered, and more than 577,900 have died, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The US, Brazil, the United Kingdom, Mexico and Italy have recorded the most deaths.

Here are the latest updates.

Wednesday, July 15

06:15 GMT – New Zealand must prepare for new outbreaks: PM

New Zealand must prepare for new coronavirus outbreaks as the pandemic spreads globally but will not drop its elimination strategy if community transmission was discovered, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.

Ardern said the epidemic was now “exploding” outside New Zealand and countries that had been models in the fight against COVID-19 had now experienced further community outbreaks.

The South Pacific nation last reported a case of community transmission two-and-a-half months ago. It has recorded 22 deaths from nearly 1,200 confirmed cases as of Wednesday.

New Zealand Prime Minister AP Photo

The government has recently released a new framework on how it intended to fight the virus in the event of new cases [File: AP] 

05:45 GMT – US base on Japan’s Okinawa confirms 36 more cases: report 

Authorities have confirmed 36 more coronavirus infections at Camp Hansen on Japan’s Okinawa, taking to 136 the tally at US military bases on the island, Kyodo News said.

The outbreak emerged at the weekend, provoking the anger of the prefecture’s governor, who has called into question the US military’s virus prevention measures.


Hello, this is Umut Uras in Doha taking over from my colleague Ted Regencia.


05:03 GMT – Hong Kong reimposes restrictions amid COVID-19 resurgence

Hong Kong

The city of 7.5 million people has recorded 1,569 confirmed cases and eight deaths since the outbreak began [Lam Yik/Reuters]

Renewed restrictions took effect in Hong Kong on Wednesday, with restaurants limited to takeout after 6 pm, as the Asian financial center battles a resurgence of the coronavirus, Reuters news agency reported.

Mask-wearing has been made compulsory on public transport for the first time, with fines of up to 5,000 Hong Kong dollars ($650). Public gatherings are once again restricted to four people, after the limit was eased last month to allow up to 50.

The semi-autonomous Chinese territory has seen a return of locally transmitted cases in the past 10 days after a long spell without them. About 300 new cases have been reported since July 6, including more than 220 non-imported ones.

The city reversed plans to allow major public events, postponing a highly popular annual book fair slated to open Wednesday. Hong Kong Disneyland, which had reopened last month, shuttered again in accordance with the renewed restrictions.

The city of 7.5 million people has recorded 1,569 confirmed cases and eight deaths since the outbreak began.

04:50 GMT – Germany’s confirmed coronavirus cases rise by 351 to 199,726

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 351 to 199,726, Reuters news agency reported on Wednesday citing the latest data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases.

The reported death toll rose by three to 9,071, the tally showed.

04:45 GMT – US bases on Japan’s Okinawa confirm 36 more coronavirus cases

Authorities have confirmed 36 more coronavirus infections at Camp Hansen on Japan’s Okinawa, taking to 136 the tally at US military bases on the island, Reuters reported on Wendesday citing Kyodo News.

The outbreak emerged at the weekend, provoking the anger of the prefecture’s governor, who has called into question the US military’s virus prevention measures.

04:25 GMT – China to ease restrictions on domestic tourism

China - tourist

The Ministry of Culture and Tourism said that tourist sites should allow 50 percent of their daily visitor capacity, up from 30 percent, and that interprovince group tours should be resumed as well [File: Andy Wong/AP]

China is further easing restrictions on domestic tourism after reporting no new local cases of COVID-19 in nine days, Associated Press news agency reported on Wednesday.

A directive from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism dated Tuesday said that tourist sites should allow 50 percent of their daily visitor capacity, up from 30 percent, and that interprovince group tours should be resumed.

The National Health Commission said that six new cases were recorded as of the end of Tuesday, all in people who had arrived from overseas. It has not reported any domestic cases since an outbreak in Beijing that infected more than 330 people before it faded early this month.

China has reported 83,611 confirmed cases and 4,634 deaths since the outbreak began. It does not include people who test positive but show no symptoms in its case count.

04:05 GMT – China reports six confirmed COVID-19 cases

Chinese health authority said Wednesday that it received reports of six new confirmed COVID-19 cases on the Chinese mainland as of the end of Tuesday, and all of them were imported.

No new suspected cases or deaths related to the disease were reported Tuesday, the National Health Commission said in its daily report, quoted by Reuters news agency.

Of the six imported cases, three were reported in Shanghai and the other three were reported in Shanxi, Chongqing and Yunnan respectively.

As of Tuesday, the overall confirmed cases on the mainland had reached 83,611, including 284 patients who were still being treated, with three in severe condition. Altogether 78,693 people had been discharged after recovery, and 4,634 had died of the disease, the commission said.

03:40 GMT – Venezuela reports new cases surpass 10,000

Venezuelan officials say new coronavirus cases have surpassed 10,000 nationwide, with an alarming number of recent illnesses found in the capital of Caracas.

President Nicolás Maduro on Tuesday ordered strict enforcement of quarantine measures in Caracas where most of the 303 new daily cases were diagnosed.

Venezuela has been in a nationwide quarantine for 121 days starting shortly after the first cases were diagnosed in mid-March. Officials report fewer than 100 deaths.

The South American nation has not been overrun by the virus like neighbouring Brazil and Ecuador, which experts attribute to the Venezuela’s isolation after years of economic and social crisis.

Maduro does not consider Caracas a focal point, but he says the recent surge in the capital and neighbouring state of Miranda has “set off an alarm.”

03:15 GMT – Mexico reports 7,051 new cases of coronavirus, 836 more deaths

Coronavirus - Brazil

Mexico ranks fourth among nations with the highest number of coronavirus deaths and seventh in the number of infections worldwide [Carlos Jasso/Reuters]

Mexico’s Health Ministry has reported 7,051 new confirmed coronavirus infections and 836 additional fatalities, bringing the total in the country to 311,486 cases and 36,327 deaths, according to Reuters news agency.

The government has said the real number of infected people is likely significantly higher than the confirmed cases.

02:58 GMT – New coronavirus cases in South Korea below 40 for second day

South Korea’s new coronavirus cases stayed below 40 for the second day in a row on Wednesday, but imported cases continued to rise, hampering the country’s efforts to contain the disease, according to Yonhap state news agency.

The country added 39 cases, including 11 local infections, raising the total caseload to 13,551, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).

Meanwhile, of the 28 additional imported cases reported, 23 were detected at quarantine checkpoints of airports and sea ports. 

No additional fatalities were reported and the country’s death toll stayed at 289.

02:45 GMT – Schools partially reopen in Malaysia

After almost four months of absence, some students from the secondary and primary levels have returned to school in Malaysia, as the country’s coronavirus cases have significantly dropped.

During the lockdown in mid-March, students were forced to study at home as part of the effort to contain the spread of the deadly disease that infected more than 8,700 people, and claimed the lives of 122 others. More than 8,500 of the patients have recovered.

State news agency Bernama quoted Senior Education Minister Mohd Radzi Md Jidin as saying that the decision to re-open “is seen as timely to motivate students to follow the learning process in schools”, given the constraints students and teachers face with online classes.

Schools and students are required to follow some safety protocols at school to help avoid the spread of the disease, the education ministry said.

02:25 GMT – Maternity ward workers test positive of coronavirus in Kenya

Coronavirus - Kenya

Kenyan health officials wearing personal protection equipment prepare to bury coronavirus victim, Dr Doreen Adisa Lugaliki, in Ndalu, Bungoma county last Monday [Odhiambo Omuoro/AP]

Some 41 workers at Kenya’s largest maternity hospital have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to the Associated Press news agency.

Ministry of health Director General Dr Patrick Amoth said 19 cases involve health care workers and 22 are hospital support staff.

He says those infected are asymptomatic and undergoing medical care under home-based isolation. Three mothers at the facility also tested positive for COVID-19, but Amoth says no babies have been affected.

He says services at the hospital will continue and measures have been put in place to protect the health workers and the public visiting the hospital.

Nurses Association of Kenya President Alfred Obengo says infection control prevention measures at the hospital weren’t followed.

The first doctor in Kenya to die of COVID-19 was buried Monday, amid calls by health professionals for better insurance coverage and compensation. Kenya has recorded 10,791 coronavirus cases and 202 confirmed deaths.

02:05 GMT – More than 300 students, tutors test positive at Ghana high schools

More than 300 students and tutors have tested positive for coronavirus at high schools in the West African nation of Ghana, AP news agency reported.

Health officials confirm the Accra Girls Senior High School has been hardest hit, with 55 students and staff contracting the virus. Its campus remains under quarantine. Parents have thronged the school protesting the government’s refusal to grant them access to their children, the report said.

Classes resumed June 22 for senior high school students, and education officials maintain infection rates at schools are still comparable to those for the general population.

Ghana has 139 confirmed deaths from COVID-19 and confirmed more than 25,000 total infections since the pandemic began.

01:50 GMT – Trump calls COVID school closures a ‘terrible decision’ as deaths rise

US President Donald Trump has criticised the state of California’s two largest school districts for making students learn from home for the upcoming term in the face of the resurgent coronavirus pandemic.

The Republican president, in an interview with CBS News, said it was a mistake for the Los Angeles and San Diego school districts to provide only on-line education for the academic year beginning in August.

“I would tell parents and teachers that you should find yourself a new person, whoever’s in charge of that decision, because it’s a terrible decision,” Trump said.

Trump made the comment as the number of cases surge by over 10,700 in one day, bringing the state’s total to more than 346,000, with 137 new deaths added to the tally of over 7,000. 

01:30 GMT – Cyprus to double random tests at two main airports

Cyprus is doubling the number of random coronavirus tests that will be carried out on arriving passengers at its two main airports each day, AP news agency reported.

The Cypriot government said in a statement that 600 random tests will be performed on passengers arriving from a total 39 countries whose citizens are not required to undergo a 14-day quarantine.

Travelers arriving from 17 of those countries are required to obtain health certificates declaring them coronavirus-free 72 hours prior to boarding a flight.

The Transport Ministry says approximately 5,500 passengers currently fly in and out of the east Mediterranean island nation’s airports daily.

Tourism is a key industry for Cyprus, directly accounting for 13 percent of the economy. Officials are projecting that this year, the country will receive less than a quarter of 2019’s tourist arrivals.

01:15 GMT – France aims to reopen schools amid lingering COVID-19 concerns

France - Schools

Frances school reopening was driven in part by concerns about getting parents back to work to restart the economy [File: Jean-Francois Badias/AP]

France is aiming to reopen all schools for the new academic year under as “normal” conditions as possible, President Emmanuel Macron announced Tuesday, despite lingering virus concerns from some parents and teachers.

France gradually reopened schools in May and June as the country emerged from virus lockdown, and most children returned to class. While new infections prompted a few schools to close again, the vast majority stayed open until the school year wrapped up earlier this month.

“We have learned a lot” from that period, Macron said. “We developed a new way of teaching” to take the virus into account.

France’s school reopening was driven by concerns about getting parents back to work to restart the economy, as well as widespread worries about disadvantaged children who couldn’t access online classes, who need special help or whose families depend on subsidized school lunches.

Schools adjusted schedules to keep children from mingling freely and kept students in one classroom instead of having them move around for different subjects. They were required to air out classrooms regularly, and masks were necessary for middle and high school students.

01:00 GMT – Tokyo to lift coronavirus alert to highest level – report

Tokyo will lift its alert level for coronavirus infections to the highest of four levels on Wednesday, Reuters news agency reported quoting Asahi newspaper, after a recent spike in cases to record levels in the Japanese capital.

Daily coronavirus cases exceeded 200 in four of the last six days, touching an all-time high of 243 cases last Friday as testing among workers in the metropolis’s red-light districts turned up infections among young people in their 20s and 30s.

The highest alert level suggests that “coronavirus infections are likely spreading”, the Asahi newspaper said.

Tokyo - coronavirus

The Japanese capital of Tokyo has confirmed more than 100 new coronavirus infections last Monday [Eugene Hoshiko/AP]

00:26 GMT – Coronavirus antibodies ‘highly inflammatory’ – Dutch scientists

The blood from seriously ill coronavirus patients on ventilators was found by researchers to be highly inflammatory and harmful to the body, the South China Morning Post reported on Wednesday, citing a study by Dutch scientists.

The scientists, led by Professor Menno de Winther from the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands, found that the blood from COVID-19 patients struggling for their life on ventilators was highly inflammatory.

They observed during a series of experiments that this could trigger an overreaction of the immune system, destroy crucial barriers in tissues and cause water and blood to spill over in the lungs, the South China Morning Post report said.

00:16 GMT – COVID-19 vaccine test moves forward in the US

The first COVID-19 vaccine tested in the United States revved up people’s immune systems just the way scientists had hoped, researchers reported – as the shots are poised to begin key final testing.

“No matter how you slice this, this is good news,” Dr Anthony Fauci, the US government’s top infectious disease expert, told The Associated Press news agency.

The experimental vaccine, developed by Fauci’s colleagues at the National Institutes of Health in partnership with Moderna Inc, will start its most important step around July 27: a 30,000-person study to prove if the shots really are strong enough to protect against the coronavirus.

But Tuesday, researchers reported anxiously awaited findings from the first 45 volunteers who rolled up their sleeves back in March. Sure enough, the vaccine provided a hoped-for immune boost.

Those early volunteers developed what are called neutralising antibodies in their bloodstream – molecules key to blocking infection – at levels comparable to those found in people who survived COVID-19, the research team reported in the New England Journal of Medicine.

00:01 GMT – US state of Nevada reports record high cases in one day

Officials of the US state of Nevada say a record high in the daily number of positive COVID-19 tests in the state may be the result of people failing to wear masks and keep distances apart during the Fourth of July Independence Day holiday, AP news agency reported.

State coronavirus response chief Caleb Cage said Tuesday that a resurgence in hospitalisations continues less than a week after Governor Steve Sisolak cited a spike in cases and again closed bars and restaurants in the Las Vegas and Reno areas.

The more than 1,100 new cases reported statewide on Tuesday brings the total to nearly 30,000. Cage blamed the Fourth of July weekend. The US has 3.4 million cases and over 136,000 deaths.

________________________________________________________________

Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. I’m Ted Regencia in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Read all the updates from yesterday (July 14) here.

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Friday's list of potential COVID-19 exposure locations – HalifaxToday.ca

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NEWS RELEASE
NOVA SCOTIA HEALTH
*************************
Nova Scotia Health Public Health is advising of potential exposure to COVID-19 at various locations across Halifax. In addition to media releases, all potential exposure notifications are now listed here: http://www.nshealth.ca/covid-exposures.
 
Anyone who worked or visited the following locations on the specified date and time to immediately visit covid-self-assessment.novascotia.ca/ to book a COVID-19 test, regardless of whether or not they have COVID-19 symptoms. People who book testing because they were at a site of potential exposure to COVID-19 are required to self-isolate before their test and while waiting for test results. You can also call 811 if you don’t have online access or if you have other symptoms that concern you.

  • Agricola Street Brasserie (2540 Agricola St, Halifax) on Nov. 16 between 2:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m.; Nov. 17 between 2:00 p.m.-10:00 p.m.; Nov. 18 between 2:00 p.m.-10:00 p.m.; Nov. 21 between 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. and between 6:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m.; Nov. 22 between 11:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m.; Nov. 23 between 6:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, Dec. 7.
  • *Corrected time* Orange Theory Fitness (6140 Young Street, Halifax) on Nov. 17 between 7:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.; Nov. 18 between 9:15 a.m. – 10:15 a.m.; Nov. 19 between 8:15 a.m.-9:15 a.m.; Nov. 20 between 8:15 a.m. – 10:45 a.m.; Nov. 21 between 7:00 a.m. – 9:15 a.m.; Nov. 22 between 8:15 a.m. – 9:15 a.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, Dec. 6. 
  • Two Doors Down (1533 Barrington St, Halifax) on Nov. 20 between 5:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, Dec. 4. 
  • Wendy’s Restaurant (720 Sackville Dr, Sackville) on Nov. 20 between 2:00 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, Dec. 4. 
  • Antojos (1667 Argyle St, Halifax) on Nov. 21 between 12:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, Dec. 5. 
  • Bicycle Thief (1475 Lower Water St, Halifax) on Nov. 21 between 7:15 p.m. and 9:45 p.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, Dec. 5. 
  • Lion’s Head Tavern (3081 Robie Street, Halifax) on Nov. 22 between 12:45 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, Dec. 6. 
  • A&W Restaurant (1748 Bedford Highway, Bedford) on Nov. 22 between 11:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, Dec. 6. 
  • Fit4Less (1535 Dresden Row, Halifax) on Nov. 23 between 3:30 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.; and Nov. 25 between 6:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, Dec. 9.

Please remember:
Do not go directly to a COVID-19 assessment centre without being directed to do so.
 
Currently, anyone travelling to Nova Scotia from outside of the Atlantic Provinces is expected to self-isolate alone for 14 days after arriving. If a person travelling for non-essential reasons enters Nova Scotia from outside Atlantic Canada, then everyone in the home where they are self-isolating will have to self-isolate as well.
 
When Nova Scotia Health Public Health makes a public notification it is not in any way a reflection on the behaviour or activities of those named in the notification.
 
All Nova Scotians are advised to continue monitoring for COVID-19 symptoms and are urged to follow Public Health guidelines on how to access care. Up to date information about COVID-19 is available at novascotia.ca/coronavirus
*************************

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Friday's list of potential COVID-19 exposure locations – HalifaxToday.ca

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NEWS RELEASE
NOVA SCOTIA HEALTH
*************************
Nova Scotia Health Public Health is advising of potential exposure to COVID-19 at various locations across Halifax. In addition to media releases, all potential exposure notifications are now listed here: http://www.nshealth.ca/covid-exposures.
 
Anyone who worked or visited the following locations on the specified date and time to immediately visit covid-self-assessment.novascotia.ca/ to book a COVID-19 test, regardless of whether or not they have COVID-19 symptoms. People who book testing because they were at a site of potential exposure to COVID-19 are required to self-isolate before their test and while waiting for test results. You can also call 811 if you don’t have online access or if you have other symptoms that concern you.

  • Agricola Street Brasserie (2540 Agricola St, Halifax) on Nov. 16 between 2:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m.; Nov. 17 between 2:00 p.m.-10:00 p.m.; Nov. 18 between 2:00 p.m.-10:00 p.m.; Nov. 21 between 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. and between 6:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m.; Nov. 22 between 11:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m.; Nov. 23 between 6:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, Dec. 7.
  • *Corrected time* Orange Theory Fitness (6140 Young Street, Halifax) on Nov. 17 between 7:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.; Nov. 18 between 9:15 a.m. – 10:15 a.m.; Nov. 19 between 8:15 a.m.-9:15 a.m.; Nov. 20 between 8:15 a.m. – 10:45 a.m.; Nov. 21 between 7:00 a.m. – 9:15 a.m.; Nov. 22 between 8:15 a.m. – 9:15 a.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, Dec. 6. 
  • Two Doors Down (1533 Barrington St, Halifax) on Nov. 20 between 5:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, Dec. 4. 
  • Wendy’s Restaurant (720 Sackville Dr, Sackville) on Nov. 20 between 2:00 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, Dec. 4. 
  • Antojos (1667 Argyle St, Halifax) on Nov. 21 between 12:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, Dec. 5. 
  • Bicycle Thief (1475 Lower Water St, Halifax) on Nov. 21 between 7:15 p.m. and 9:45 p.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, Dec. 5. 
  • Lion’s Head Tavern (3081 Robie Street, Halifax) on Nov. 22 between 12:45 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, Dec. 6. 
  • A&W Restaurant (1748 Bedford Highway, Bedford) on Nov. 22 between 11:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, Dec. 6. 
  • Fit4Less (1535 Dresden Row, Halifax) on Nov. 23 between 3:30 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.; and Nov. 25 between 6:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, Dec. 9.

Please remember:
Do not go directly to a COVID-19 assessment centre without being directed to do so.
 
Currently, anyone travelling to Nova Scotia from outside of the Atlantic Provinces is expected to self-isolate alone for 14 days after arriving. If a person travelling for non-essential reasons enters Nova Scotia from outside Atlantic Canada, then everyone in the home where they are self-isolating will have to self-isolate as well.
 
When Nova Scotia Health Public Health makes a public notification it is not in any way a reflection on the behaviour or activities of those named in the notification.
 
All Nova Scotians are advised to continue monitoring for COVID-19 symptoms and are urged to follow Public Health guidelines on how to access care. Up to date information about COVID-19 is available at novascotia.ca/coronavirus
*************************

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9 new cases of COVID-19 in Nova Scotia, 1 at Bedford school – CBC.ca

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Nova Scotia reported nine new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, including one case at a Bedford school for children in pre-primary to Grade 4. 

The student from Bedford South School is self-isolating, the Health Department said in a news release. Everyone in a class that a confirmed case attended will be tested and is required to self-isolate for 14 days. 

The school was closed Friday for cleaning and contact tracing, and is expected to remain closed until at least Dec. 2.

All cases identified Friday are in the Central Zone. There are now 119 active cases of COVID-19 in the province.

One of the new cases announced Friday is a student at Bedford South School. (Patrick Callaghan/CBC)

Nova Scotia labs completed 3,109 Nova Scotia tests on Thursday.

Rapid-testing pop-ups

An additional 1,142 tests were completed at the rapid-testing pop-up site Thursday in downtown Halifax, finding four positive results. Those people were told to self-isolate and have been referred for a standard test.

The provincial state of emergency has also been renewed. The order will take effect Sunday and extend to noon on Sunday, Dec. 13, unless government terminates or extends it.

Another rapid-testing site was held Friday for those without symptoms at the Alderney Gate Public Library in Dartmouth from 1:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.

More than 2,700 rapid tests have been completed in the province since the first rapid-testing pop-up site last weekend.

Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Robert Strang, reminded people Friday that rapid testing is an important part of the province’s testing strategy, but it does not replace the need for a standard lab test.

Including standard lab tests and rapid tests, the province has conducted more than 13,000 tests in the last six days.

Premier Stephen McNeil said a vast majority of those tests were young people in the 18-35 age group, the demographic representing the most COVID-19 cases in Nova Scotia’s second wave.

“I want you to know how grateful I am,” he said Friday. “By showing up and stepping up, you’re protecting everyone around you and your community and that’s the best example of leadership. I want to sincerely thank you.”

1,058 ongoing investigations

When a person tests positive in the lab, Public Health employees investigate each close contact of that confirmed COVID case. There are 1,058 ongoing investigations in the province.

A week ago, that number was 276.

Strang said each positive case has an average of seven close contacts, but many cases have had considerably more than that.

Because of the work involved to complete contact tracing, it takes time for close contacts of positive cases to be contacted by Public Health.

A Nova Scotia health worker prepares to administer a nasal swab at a rapid-testing site in Halifax on Tuesday. Another testing site will be set up in Dartmouth on Friday. (Robert Short/CBC)

“I ask for people’s support and patience during this. Public Health will get to you,” Strang said. “While you’re waiting, if you believe you’re a close contact, just stay isolated at home. We need your help on this.”

Strang said he’s “relieved” to see relatively low case numbers in the last few days, but expects to continue to see high numbers of new daily cases in the next week to 10 days.

“We’re just Day 2 into implementing our tight restrictions in the Halifax area. We’re by no means out of the woods yet,” he said.

There have been no positive COVID-19 cases linked to a recent party in downtown Halifax with close to 60 people in attendance, Strang said, but cases are coming from people socializing in groups.

Even when people follow the rules, the COVID-19 virus can be easily spread through social activities because many people are not symptomatic or have mild symptoms.

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Earlier this week, the Department of Health and Wellness asked anyone who was at a bar or restaurant in the Halifax area past 10 p.m. to arrange for testing. Strang said nearly 8,000 people have come forward for a test since then.

In the event a test is necessary, a person can fill out the self-assessment tool on the province’s website.

Staff or patrons of bars or restaurants who were there after 10 p.m. do not need to self-isolate while awaiting a test.

But if a person was at one of the more than 100 recent exposure sites on any of the listed dates and times, they need to self-isolate while awaiting a test. On Friday night, the Nova Scotia Health Authority issued eight new notices for the Halifax area.

Essential travel only

Although the province has not changed its self-isolation rules for travellers from other Atlantic provinces, Nova Scotians are still being urged to only travel for essential purposes, including accessing health care and attending work or school.

“I’m sorry to say, shopping is not an essential purpose,” McNeil said.

Strang added to buy local, and buy online, if shopping needs to be done to help contain the second wave of COVID, which began Oct. 1.

“Wave 2 is clearly here in Halifax, and we’re trying to keep it in Halifax,” he said.

Truro police said in a Facebook post Friday they’ve received numerous calls from the public asking police to take action against people they believe travelled from the Halifax area to their community in Colchester County.

“While we appreciate concerns about the spread of COVID-19, this travel restriction isn’t in Public Health orders and cannot be directly enforced by police,” the post said.

Researchers in Wolfville, meanwhile, have detected the virus that causes COVID-19 in the town’s wastewater. Strang said it could be a signal the virus has entered that community although the research is experimental and the results may not be definitive.

Strang said the province is going to increase capacity at the primary assessment centre in Wolfville and is planning to have pop-up rapid-testing sites in place in that community early next week.

Rapid testing in long-term care

As of Friday, ongoing voluntary testing is being introduced in long-term care homes. Volunteers, designated caregivers, and employees who provide direct care to residents will be tested every two weeks.

The testing will start at three locations: Northwood, Ocean View, and St. Vincent’s. It will expand to six more facilities over the next two weeks.

Northwood is one of three long-term care facilities that currently has rapid testing in place for volunteers, staff, and designated caregivers. (Robert Short/CBC)

“This is part of our effort to monitor, reduce, and prevent the spread of COVID-19 in long-term care facilities. None of us need a reminder of how important that is,” Strang said.

With the federal government saying Canadians could start getting vaccinated in early 2021, Strang said it’s important to remember none of the vaccines is licensed by Health Canada yet and there is no certainty on the availability or the amount of doses.

“I need to be clear, we are expecting very small amounts to begin with … We’ll have to tightly control the supply and [have] very strict prioritization of who that vaccine needs to go to,” he said.

New restrictions for restaurants, gyms

On Thursday, new restrictions came into effect in most of the Halifax area and parts of Hants County.

Restaurants are closed for in-person dining for two weeks, but can do takeout and delivery. Gyms, libraries, museums and casinos are also closed.

A list of what’s open and closed in Halifax can be found here.

COVID cases in the Atlantic provinces

New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island have all brought back mandatory 14-day self-isolation for travellers. As of Thursday evening, Nova Scotia is still not requiring anyone travelling from the Atlantic provinces to quarantine.

The latest numbers from the Atlantic provinces are:

Symptoms

Anyone with one of the following symptoms should visit the COVID-19 self-assessment website or call 811:

  • Fever.
  • Cough or worsening of a previous cough.

Anyone with two or more of the following symptoms is also asked to visit the website or call 811:

  • Sore throat.
  • Headache.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Runny nose.
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