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Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health, speaks during a news briefing in Halifax, on Dec. 7, 2021.Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press

Nova Scotia’s few remaining COVID-19 restrictions, including mandatory isolation for those who test positive for the disease, will be dropped Wednesday.

It’s time to remove all restrictions because there is high vaccine coverage across the province and most residents are at low risk of contracting a severe form of the disease, chief medical officer of health Dr. Robert Strang told reporters Monday.

“We’re at a place now with our epidemiology and our ongoing adaptation to COVID being with us for the long term, that we feel it’s appropriate to do what many other provinces have already done and make some adjustments to our last remaining restrictions,” Strang said.

The chief medical officer said he expects “smaller waves” of virus activity over the summer, adding that it’s likely there will be a resurgence of COVID-19 in the fall.

Starting Wednesday, it will become strongly recommended – no longer mandatory – for people who test positive for COVID-19 to isolate.

Strang said that while isolation after contracting COVID-19 has been mandatory for more than two years, there’s been “very little way to enforce” the policy.

“I don’t believe this really was keeping many people home,” the chief medical officer said of the mandatory isolation requirement. Strang said he’s asking people to stay home if they have cold or flu-like symptoms “if at all possible.”

“And if you do have to go out, that’s where it’s really important to wear a mask,” he said.

The government’s advice on masking in public will shift to optional instead of strongly recommended, but officials said people who test positive or who have symptoms of the disease should continue wearing masks.

Also starting Wednesday, PCR testing will be limited to people who are considered high-risk for severe COVID-19 or who live or work in a congregate setting, such as a long-term care home. Rapid tests will remain available to all who are not high-risk, and positive rapid tests will no longer be confirmed with a PCR test.

The province will also move to reporting COVID-19 data once a month instead of once a week.

Strang said the government’s decision to lift the remaining rules doesn’t mean public health restrictions are gone for good. Health orders like physical distancing and masking could be reinstated if there’s a COVID-19 resurgence, he added.

“We’re not out of the pandemic yet, and there’s still a lot of uncertainty,” he said. “So we have to keep all the tools available in our tool box as necessary and appropriate.”

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

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