Nova Scotia must lead on targeted asymptomatic testing, and increase overall testing levels

In order for Nova Scotia to continue to fight COVID-19 effectively, our testing strategy must use every bit of our existing capacity.


We are hopeful that yesterday’s testing of over 2,000 people, the first time the government has come even close to capacity, is an indication that the need to extensively test is being taken seriously. 


In the past 21 days, the McNeil Liberals have watched as 52.7% of our testing capacity went unused. If used, at least 20,000 more Nova Scotians, including essential and rotational workers, could have been tested.


“Testing, testing, testing,” said Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Houston. “I’m disappointed that we’ve been testing under 50% capacity for so long but I am hopeful that the government has now turned the corner.”


Only recently did Nova Scotia initiate asymptomatic testing and set up drop-in testing centres. In a recent interview, Dr. Lisa Barrett noted that “an imperfect test is still better than no test at all,” and that they can be done outside of the healthcare system so as not to overburden it. 


“We agree,” said Houston, “and have been respectfully pressuring the Liberals to get to work on testing.”


The Premier has suggested that capacity wasn’t being used because the government is “looking to ensure we have the capability” to put a plan to use it. It is unclear how not testing an individual today saves capacity for tomorrow.


Karla MacFarlane, the PC critic for Health, says that “by waiting for the perfect plan, a chance to test broadly was missed, which increased the risk that the virus could creep into places undetected and ultimately lead to new restrictions and shutdowns.”


With the federal government’s difficulties procuring timely access to a vaccine before other G7 nations, tests in airports will likely become normal for those who have to travel in 2021. Houston says more testing in airports and areas of high risk will give us the information we need to help contain this virus.