EDMUNDSTON, N.B. -- New Brunswick reported two more deaths attributed to COVID-19 on Wednesday, including one in the Edmundston region where doctors are trying to convince the local population to take the pandemic more seriously.

The hard-hit area in northwestern New Brunswick has been under a 14-day lockdown since Sunday and has nearly half of the province's 327 active reported COVID-19 infections.

Several doctors joined the Edmundston mayor for a virtual news conference Wednesday to warn residents that the COVID-19 situation in the region could get out of hand if they don't follow public health orders.

"It's in the face of the rising number of cases that we decided to sound the alarm because we know what could come; we've seen the predictions and we know if the situation doesn't improve quickly, it could degenerate quickly," Dr. Jean-Philippe Lepage, an internist at the regional hospital, told reporters.

The two new COVID-related deaths involved people in their 70s, bringing the total number of people who have died from the pandemic to 16. One person died at a nursing home in Saint John -- the sixth COVID-related death in the province to occur at the Shannex-owned Parkland Saint John complex.

The other death occurred in Edmundston, where Lepage said he and his colleagues are concerned that residents don't believe in the seriousness of the pandemic and aren't interested in getting tested. He said health workers hope that people in the largely French-speaking part of the province will understand the urgency of the situation if they see doctors repeating the message to follow health orders.

Dr. Vincent Moreau, an emergency room physician, said too many patients are showing up to the ER who don't believe they have COVID-19 and haven't been tested but who want to be treated for a bad cold.

"There's no treatment for COVID-19 and by coming to the emergency room, you could be contaminating people who are sick or health-care employees," Moreau said, adding that those with more serious symptoms should come to the hospital. The rest, he said, should get tested and limit their contacts.

Lepage said the situation in the region is worse in nursing homes than in hospitals, but said the relatively high number of cases in the community could quickly become unmanageable.

"As we are a small region, the health resources are limited, we don't have hundreds of beds so if a lot of people get COVID at the same time, it will have an impact on the health system," Lepage said.

The province reported 14 new infections on Wednesday -- including six in Edmundston -- for a total of 1,175 since the beginning of the pandemic. Health officials said six patients were in hospital with the disease, including two in intensive care.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 27, 2021.

-- By Sidhartha Banerjee in Montreal.