Nova Scotia

Been in a Halifax bar or restaurant at night in the past 2 weeks? Get a COVID-19 test

Anyone who was recently in a Halifax bar or restaurant past 10 p.m., or works in one, is being asked to get a COVID-19 test. The province announced Tuesday they are broadening out their asymptomatic testing strategy for people who go to, or work, in late-night bars and restaurants.

Province says recent virus cases include people who attended late-night establishments

Anyone who has been to a bar in Halifax past 10 p.m. or works at a licensed establishment is being asked to get a COVID-19 test. (Jonathan Castell/CBC)

Anyone who was recently in a Halifax bar or restaurant past 10 p.m., or who works in one, is being asked to get a COVID-19 test.

The province announced Tuesday they are broadening out their asymptomatic testing strategy for people who go to, or work in, late-night bars and restaurants.

These people are being asked to get tested even if they don't have any symptoms of the virus.

"Most of our recent cases of COVID-19 have been among young people who have been to late-night bars and restaurants," Dr. Robert Strang, chief medical officer of health, said in a news release.

"This broad testing initiative will help us detect new cases early, get people who test positive to self-isolate and stop the spread of the virus. This is one tool in our toolbox, but it does not diminish how important it is for people to tighten their social circles and activities and follow Public Health measures."

No need to self-isolate without symptoms

People who work in, or have been to, a bar or restaurant in urban and suburban areas of Halifax Regional Municipality in the last two weeks should click here to schedule a test.

This applies to all bars and restaurants open late and serving alcohol in HRM (except the areas east of Porters Lake), and the Enfield and Mount Uniacke areas in both HRM and Hants County.

People who are tested through this process don't have to self-isolate while they wait for test results, so long as they don't have symptoms.

Asymptomatic testing will be available to staff and patrons of licensed establishments until Nov. 30. Walk-in testing is not available; people must book in advance.

"This isn't about blaming or shaming," said Strang in the release.

"The important thing right now is that people come forward so we can identify as many cases of COVID-19 as we can and take action to reduce the spread."

Halifax bars, restaurants ordered to stop dine-in service

Daniel Sinclair, a server at the Lower Deck in Clayton Park, said he agreed with asking anyone who's recently been to a bar to be tested.

"The whole asymptomatic aspect of it all is pretty scary, because you don't know if anyone's a carrier or not," he said. "Specifically in an environment where a lot of people are interacting and coming in and out, it's a good call."

Sinclair said working in a restaurant environment, the spiking numbers of COVID-19 and the number of public exposures at restaurants is a concern.

"It's definitely something that's on my mind every day I'm coming in, but as long as I'm washing my hands, sanitizing, making sure everyone that's coming in is doing the same thing ... we're kind of all in this together, so ... I trust, I suppose, that everyone else is sort of following the same things," said Sinclair.

Daniel Sinclair, a server at the Lower Deck in Clayton Park, says it was a 'good call' to shut restaurants down for a bit to stop the spread of the coronavirus. (CBC)

Tuesday afternoon, Premier Stephen McNeil announced at a news conference that as of 12:01 a.m. Thursday, all bars and restaurants in the Halifax area will be restricted to takeout and delivery only for the next two weeks.

This came after the Restaurant Association of Nova Scotia had called on the province to shut down establishments for the next two weeks.

Sinclair said it was a "good call" to shut things down for a bit to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

"It's definitely getting a little scary for a lot of people," he said. "It might hurt a lot of businesses financially, and that's really unfortunate, but for the health of our province moving forward, it might be the next course of action."

He noted some restaurants may still offer takeout and delivery, so they can recoup some of the lost revenue that way.

Rapid testing pilots underway

A rapid-testing pilot that began in The Dome nightclub on Saturday in downtown Halifax will continue this week. These pop-up sites will move to new locations each day, the province said.

On Tuesday, dozens lined up in the cold for the second rapid-testing event outside a building on Dalhousie University's campus.

Workers process tests during a rapid-testing event at Dalhousie University on Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2020. (Robert Short/CBC)

Dr. Lisa Barrett, an infectious disease specialist at Dalhousie University, said with the increasing number of cases, it's important to test people who don't have symptoms.

"What we're trying to do with this testing is to get out to people, who are just out on the community doing what they do every day, and trying to get a broad number of people tested very quickly," she said.

"The people who are probably spreading this virus don't have symptoms and don't know they have it."

Barrett said the public health initiative has so far been "exceptionally successful," with lots of people showing up to be tested.

Dr. Lisa Barrett says the rapid-testing pilot is focusing on getting tests for people who don't have symptoms. (CBC)

The physically-distant line for rapid testing stretched around the corner of the Richard Murray Building Tuesday afternoon.

"Recently I just had a stomach flu, so I was just a little worried about it, so I thought I might just come down and get tested just in case," said Talia Vydykhan, who had been waiting for an hour at the time CBC News spoke with her.

Kianna Meaney, who also went for a rapid test on Tuesday, said she agreed with the new restrictions put in place.

"I personally haven't went out in probably like, three or four weeks, but the younger generation, everyone's going out, going downtown, so it's definitely smart that they shut everything down so people can start taking it more seriously," said Meaney.

The lineup for rapid testing at Dalhousie University wrapped around the Richard Murray Building Tuesday afternoon. (CBC)

Anyone who gets a positive result from the rapid test will get a standard test, and be sent home immediately to self-isolate while they wait for those results.

The pop-up event at Dalhousie happened the day Nova Scotia announced 37 new cases of COVID-19, the fifth highest number of new cases in the province since April 23.

As of Tuesday, there are 87 active cases in Nova Scotia and Public Health has confirmed community spread.

With files from Alex Cooke, Kayla Hounsell and Héloïse Rodriguez-Qizilbash

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