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A man heads to receive a COVID-19 vaccination at a clinic in Halifax on April 16.Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press

Nova Scotia reported six new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday and health officials warned of increasing pressure on hospitals due to staffing shortages.

Three new cases were identified in the Halifax area, two were in the northern zone and one was in the eastern zone, which includes Cape Breton.

The number of active reported cases dropped to 159, following 20 new recoveries. Four people were in hospital with the disease.

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Wednesday’s new caseload was down significantly from Tuesday, when officials reported 66 new cases and announced that the fourth wave of the coronavirus had hit the province.

According to the latest data, 72.9 per cent of the province’s population is fully vaccinated.

Meanwhile, the province’s health authority advised the public on Wednesday that hospitals were experiencing higher-than-normal visits to emergency rooms and demand for beds, resulting in service delays.

The authority blamed the pressure on “considerable staffing challenges,” including a shortage of nurses that has been made worse by the pandemic.

As a result, it said further reductions would be made to surgical capacity in the Halifax area and in the province’s northern health zone. And while cancer and other time-sensitive surgeries would continue, the authority said many elective and same-day procedures were on hold until at least the end of next week.

Officials also said they anticipated “longer than usual” waits for care in emergency departments into the fall, due to a rise in COVID-19 cases and hospital admissions.

The recent rise in cases was cited by officials on Tuesday as the reason for delaying the final phase of the province’s five-step recovery plan until Oct. 4. Once implemented, Phase 5 will see the removal of most of the public health measures that have been in place since the onset of the pandemic, such as indoor masking and gathering limits.

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