HALIFAX -- There are 12 new cases of COVID-19 in New Brunswick and all but one are linked to travel, said Dr. Jennifer Russell, the province's chief medical officer of health.

Russell said one is "being investigated as a possible case of community transmission" and brings the total in the province to 45.

"This is entirely expected," Russell said of the sharp rise in cases after so many people have returned from travelling abroad.

Russell said it is vital that people stay home as much as possible, maintain proper hygiene, and physical distancing.

"Everyone should act as if they already have COVID-19," Russell said during a news conference in Fredericton on Friday afternoon.

For those who are ending their 14-day quarantine after returning from travel, Dr. Russell says you should stay home like your neighbours are doing.

When asked for details about how the possible case of community transmission was discovered if the province so far has only been testing people who have travelled, Russell said she could not provide more details.

"I can't speak to individual cases, but I can speak in generalities," Russell said.

Without getting into the specifics of the case for privacy reasons, Russell said other than being referred for a test through 811, a doctor can refer a patient for testing through what is called the "sentinel program."

"If a clinician had a suspicion they would speak to public health and get a person tested," Russell said.

She said there have been situations in New Brunswick where doctors have used their judgment and some people who did not have a history of travel have been tested.

"That's happened thoughout this pandemic," Russell said.

Russell was asked by a reporter why more people aren't being tested. She said it's not wise to use a blanket approach to testing. She said public health officials are trying to test the "right people at the right time," and adds if they test too early, they can get a "false negative."

The "window of oppotunity" for accurate testing is when a patient starts to show symptoms and within eight to 10 days after that, Russell said.

Russell said because of the potential for community tranmision, the province is going to expand its testing for COVID-19.

“We are expanding testing to cover our health-care workers, those who have not travelled but have developed a new cough, fever or shortness of breath,” Russell said. “All workers in our health-care sector who have developed COVID-19 symptoms are directed to immediately self-isolate. This includes employees of regional health authorities, long-term care facilities, the Extra-Mural Hospital, Ambulance New Brunswick, community physicians and pharmacists.”

Information on the toll-free number for health-care employees to seek assistance will be available Saturday.

The province also issued a notice to passengers on two flights that arrived at New Brunswick airports and are linked to confirmed cases of COVID-19, Russell said:

  • Sunwing Flight 169 from Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic to Fredericton on March 18; and,
  • Air Canada Flight 8900 from Montreal to Moncton on March 16.

All passengers should already be self-isolating, but public health officials reminded them to do so if they are not.

The new cases are from different regions of the province, and include the first from Zone 5, which is in north-central New Brunswick (see map below):

  • An individual aged 60-69, in Zone 1 (southeast)
  • An individual aged 70-79, in Zone 1 (southeast)
  • An individual aged 70-79, in Zone 1 (southeast)
  • An individual aged 30-39, in Zone 1 (southeast)
  • An individual aged 20-29, in Zone 2 (south)
  • An individual aged 30-39, in Zone 3 (central)
  • An individual aged up to 9, in Zone 3 (central)
  • An individual aged up to 9, in Zone 3 (central)
  • An individual aged 20-29, in Zone 4 (northwest)
  • An individual aged 30-39, in Zone 4 (northwest)
  • An individual aged 20-29, in Zone 4 (northwest)
  • An individual aged 20-29, in Zone 5 (north central)