Nova Scotia

N.S. working to boost screening for COVID-19 at Halifax airport

Nova Scotia is working with federal officials to beef up screening for COVID-19 at Halifax Stanfield International Airport, Premier Stephen McNeil said Sunday.

Provincial health inspectors will be at the airport starting Monday

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil says anyone who travels outside of Canada must self-isolate for 14 days upon returning to the province. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

Nova Scotia is working with federal officials to beef up screening for COVID-19 at Halifax Stanfield International Airport, Premier Stephen McNeil said Sunday.

At a press conference called Sunday afternoon after the province announced its first three presumptive cases, McNeil said anyone who travels outside of Canada must self-isolate for 14 days upon returning to the province.

He said there are screens up at the airport telling people to self-isolate, and where to go for information if they feel sick.

McNeil also said provincial health inspectors will be stationed at the airport and the J.A. Douglas McCurdy Sydney Airport starting Monday to ensure every traveller is aware of the new restrictions. 

He said the province "heard the call" from people who recently came through the airport and did not feel the screening measures were adequate, and "that's why we stepped up the protocol ourselves."

"We are expecting a lot of snowbirds to return to our province in the coming days," said McNeil.

"It will require all Nova Scotians to remind their loved ones they need to self-isolate for 14 days, and if they are feeling ill, to follow the public health advice."

McNeil said the province was working with Canada Border Services Agency to "beef up" the screening process.

The agency's current measures are:

  • Providing instruction to travellers who have been China, Iran or Italy to self-isolate for 14 days, and report to their local public health agency within 24 hours of arriving in Canada.
  • Providing instructions to travellers arriving in Canada from other international destinations to self-monitor for symptoms and to consider self-isolation for 14 days.
  • Displaying additional signage to raise traveller awareness at airports, and offering travellers a general COVID-19 information handout at all ports of entry.
  • Using health screening questions to identify travellers of concern, and providing travellers of concern a mask kit consisting of a surgical mask and one-page instructions on how to use a surgical mask.
  • Working with the support of Public Health Agency of Canada officers to screen travellers who may pose a risk.
  • Screening of travellers who may be unwell in the customs hall and at ports of entry.

Halifax Stanfield International Airport noted on Sunday that Ottawa plans to limit which Canadian airports can receive international flights.

"We're not certain if this affects our airport at this time, but we'll update passengers and the public when more details are available," the airport's website said.

The airport said it is enhancing surface cleaning in high-traffic areas and putting up more hand-sanitizing stations for public use in strategic locations around the terminal building.

Travel within Canada

Asked if it is time to start restricting travel within Canada, Dr. Robert Strang, the province's chief medical officer of health, said: "We may get there. We're not there yet."

Strang said it is a "very active topic of conversation."

"Everything we do is all about appropriate balance, knowing that all our interventions actually have significant impacts," said Strang at the news conference.

"It's really important that we work through those impacts, and what the potential benefits are, and when is the right time when the balance of benefits actually outweighs some of the potential negative impacts."

Some Air Canada flights departing the Halifax airport on Sunday and Monday for Toronto, Ottawa and Boston were cancelled due to "a government travel advisory and health and safety concerns."