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New research in Nova Scotia has health officials in that province recommending people swab both their nose and throat for rapid COVID-19 testing.

A study from Nova Scotia Health’s microbiology team indicates that a combination of a nose and throat swab provides more accurate results compared with a nose swab alone.

In an interview Friday, Dr. Glenn Patriquin, a medial microbiologist with the administrative authority, said the impetus for the study was the idea rumoured publicly that the Omicron variant of novel coronavirus prefers the throat to the nose as an entry point.

“We wanted to provide some data to either refute or confirm those assertions on social media and to ensure that we are adequately testing our community,” Patriquin said.

The research conducted over a seven-day period earlier this month was done with the help of volunteers at the community rapid testing site at the Halifax Convention Centre.

“That was really instrumental,” Patriquin said. “Having infrastructure like this really lends itself to being able to better inform ongoing swabbing.”

The investigation compared results from rapid tests and from the more accurate polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, taken from the same people. Researchers used 1,472 samples in a first phase of analysis and 520 samples in a second.

According to the results, the samples from nasal or throat swabs detected 64.5 per cent of cases that were detected from PCR tests, while a combination of nose and throat swabs increased accuracy to 88.7 per cent.

Patriquin said public health officials are now working to update testing instructions people receive when they pick up a rapid test. He said the tests will require a single swab for use in both the throat and nose.

He said that if only one location sample is used in rapid testing, then it should be the nose, because the throat swab alone is not as effective.

“These are recommendations,” he added. “No one is saying that you must swab your throat and nose.”

Health officials reported 16 new hospital admissions due to COVID-19 on Friday and said 13 patients were in intensive care. A total of 280 patients were in hospital with the disease, a figure up from 269 reported Thursday.

There were 601 new lab-confirmed cases and officials estimated the province has 5,241 active infections.

Correctional Service Canada confirmed Friday that 32 inmates at Nova Scotia’s medium security Springhill Institution had tested positive for COVID-19. Officials said they were monitoring the situation and that measures were in place to minimize spread of the virus within the institution, which has the capacity to house about 450 inmates.

“This is an evolving situation and we continue to apply and reinforce infection prevention and control measures to prevent and contain the spread of COVID-19, and adapt based on public health advice,” officials said in a news release.

Meanwhile, the Department of Health and Wellness confirmed in an e-mail Friday the province had so far received 900 treatments of the COVID-19 antiviral drug Paxlovid. The department said details on how the drug will be prescribed and distributed are being finalized.

“We will be working on making supply available to patients as soon as possible,” the department said.

The oral pill is a treatment meant to protect against hospitalization and death.

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