Nova Scotia

Don't call 811 for travel advice, general info on COVID-19

According to a spokesperson with Nova Scotia's Department of Health and Wellness, many of the calls 811 is getting are from people looking for general information or travel advice.

The service is receiving approximately 1,500 calls a day amid the COVID-19 pandemic

COVID-19 assessment sites in Nova Scotia are by appointment only. People must call 811 before showing up at the centres. (Nova Scotia Health Authority)

Many people calling Nova Scotia's 811 service are asking for general information on COVID-19 and/or travel advice, and the Department of Health and Wellness is advising people not to use the line for that reason.

The service has been much busier than usual. From March 1-18, it has received approximately 1,500 calls per day. Delays in the service have frustrated some Nova Scotians since last week.

The department said information about COVID-19 and travel advice can be found on the government's website, or by calling the federal COVID-19 line at 1-833-784-4397. 

While the Department of Health and Wellness couldn't offer an average wait time for callers, it did say 811 calls are currently being triaged by category.

Urgent, high priority and COVID-19 related calls are "being prioritized and addressed quickly," a spokesperson told CBC News in an email.

When a call is answered, information is gathered to help determine priority. A clinical supervisor is on hand to answer questions about prioritization.

Staffing for 811 has been increased, with 18 teleheatlh associates and 35 registered nurses recently added. The people answering calls are working in a contact centre specifically focused on COVID-19 related calls and assessments.

As of Friday, March 20, Nova Scotia had five confirmed and 10 presumptive cases of COVID-19.

What to do if you think you have COVID-19

The early symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to a common cold or seasonal flu, and can include fever, cough, difficulty breathing and pneumonia in both lungs.

If people think they have COVID-19, they're encouraged to use the self-assessment tool on the province's website. They will then be directed to 811, if necessary.

With files from Angela MacIvor