HALIFAX — Nova Scotia will become the latest province to adopt the federal government’s COVID-19 smartphone application, Premier Stephen McNeil confirmed Thursday.
“We’re signing off on it,” McNeil told reporters following a cabinet meeting. “It will be one piece of how we deal with the issue of COVID.” He said the application will available in the near future. Nova Scotia currently has two active cases of COVID-19.
The COVID Alert app, which has been introduced in several provinces, notifies someone when they have been in close contact with a person who tests positive for COVID-19 and has shared their results.
The app is active in Manitoba, Ontario, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland and Labrador. Quebec also announced it will make the application available for use in the province shortly.
Meanwhile, Nova Scotia announced Thursday that improvements are being made to ensure people with COVID-19 symptoms get tested more quickly. The change will allow people to complete a self-assessment online instead of calling the 811 hotline.
Officials said the change will reduce the wait time to be screened for testing from 12 hours to about 10 minutes.
If the online assessment determines a person requires a test, a representative from the Nova Scotia Health Authority or the IWK Health Centre in Halifax will call them within 24 hours to 48 hours to book an appointment.
McNeil said the change is partly motivated by concerns from parents who needed to stay home from work with their children to wait for confirmation on whether they needed to be tested.
“This just eliminates that one extra step,” McNeil said. “There were too many people between you and getting your appointment and this online portal will speed things up.”
NDP Leader Gary Burrill said any step that helps eliminate bottlenecks in the phone-intake system is a good thing, but he said his party wants to see a parallel system to expedite testing in schools.
“This should be fast-tracked and double-focused because of the number of things that we know have to shut right down while children from school are waiting to get tests,” Burrill said.
The 811 line will continue to take calls from people who cannot access the online tool or who wish to speak with a nurse about their symptoms.
According to the province, the 811 line has received an average of 1,467 calls per day since the beginning of September.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 1, 2020.
Keith Doucette, The Canadian Press