Nova Scotia

Rapid tests no longer available at N.S. airports, but return to libraries

Take-home rapid test kits for COVID-19 are once again being handed out at libraries and other public sites across the province, without the need for an appointment.

Provincial health authority says supply has stabilized

Rapid tests have been in high demand during the Omicron wave. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

Take-home rapid test kits for COVID-19 are once again being handed out at libraries and other public sites across Nova Scotia, without the need for an appointment.

The province's health authority said in a news release Monday it is trying to provide easier access for people who don't live near designated testing centres now that the supply of rapid antigen tests has stabilized.

With a countrywide run on test supplies during the Omicron wave, rapid test distribution was restricted in Nova Scotia starting at the end of December, but some people — especially those living in rural areas — have complained that the setup made it virtually impossible for them to access the kits.

Now, people can once again get the rapid test kits at more locations without an appointment and without having to do an online assessment. In addition to public libraries, tests are being distributed through family resource centres, schools and pop-up testing sites.

WATCH: How to use a rapid test 

WATCH: A visual aid to swabbing your nose and throat for a rapid test

8 months ago
Duration 0:41
Nova Scotia Public Health is now recommending those who use rapid tests to swab their nose and their throat with the same swab when collecting their sample.

Despite the change, provincial health officials are still encouraging people to only seek out a test if they have COVID-like symptoms or have been in close contact with a confirmed case.

The health authority said it will continue to prioritize those groups for testing, and anyone who meets those criteria are encouraged to do an online assessment to determine if they should book a PCR test or seek out a rapid test.

Discontinuing airport distribution

Meanwhile, rapid test distribution is being discontinued at airports in Halifax and Sydney, where incoming travellers could previously pick up kits on their way into the province.

Nova Scotia Health said this is because its focus is on community distribution. It will continue, however, to hand out take-home PCR tests for domestic travelers who are not fully vaccinated.

Library availability varies

Each library system is taking its own approach to handing out the rapid tests. 

The Annapolis Valley Regional Library is using mobile pickup locations on select dates and times. Details will be listed on its website.

The Cape Breton Regional Library already handed some tests out this past weekend, and will hand out more tests (one box per person) outside the McConnell Library in Sydney on Sunday, Feb. 6 between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. local time.

In Colchester-East Hants, libraries are using drive-thru pickup sites at various locations. Details are being posted online.

Cumberland Public Libraries had already run out of test kits at most of its branches by the end of last week, but it expects more to arrive weekly.

The Halifax Central Library quickly ran out of tests when it was distributing them last December. (Craig Paisley/CBC)

Libraries in the Eastern Counties system are handing out test kits within its branches, but they're encouraging patrons to call ahead to check supply.

Halifax Public Libraries are handing out test kits based on supply on different days and times at each branch. Details are being posted online.

The Pictou-Antigonish Regional Library system ran out of tests last week and has not yet posted a distribution plan for when it's restocked.

South Shore Public Libraries are handing out test kits Thursdays between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. local time at the Bridgewater and Liverpool branches, based on supply.

The Western Counties libraries handed out tests at the Yarmouth branch last week before running out. Plans for future distribution have not yet been shared.

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