FREDERICTON -- New Brunswick’s top doctor says a hospital in the province's COVID-19 red zone is about to hit its breaking point.

Dr. Jennifer Russell, New Brunswick’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, says Edmundston Regional Hospital has been overwhelmed, not only by the recent outbreak in Zone 4, but the severity of just how ill a COVID-19 variant is making some people.

“They are pretty close to capacity, so the next steps would be to start transporting COVID-19 patients to other centres, and that would not be ideal,” says Dr. Russell.

"It’s one thing to transfer a patient to another zone who requires care for a non-COVID condition, but once you start moving COVID patients around, especially with the U.K. variant, which is more transmissible and more aggressive... we’re seeing a higher percentage of people who get this variant requiring hospitalization."

On Sunday, New Brunswick public health reported 11 new cases of COVID-19, including nine in the Edmundston region.

That brings the total of active cases in the province to 162, with 136 of them located in Zone 4 (84 per cent of active cases).

According to the Department of Health, 15 New Brunswickers are in hospital as of Sunday, with seven people in intensive care. That is a significant increase since Thursday, when four people were in hospital, with three in intensive care.

The Department of Health also confirmed on Sunday that a case of COVID-19 has been identified at Loch Lomond School in Saint John. Contact tracing has begun at the K-5 school and families will be contacted directly if they need to take any further action.

The pandemic’s prognosis is becoming more dire by the minute in other parts of Canada, prompting pleas for an increase in vigilance around the Maritimes.

“We are wrestling with those variants,” says Russell. “The three V’s – variants, vaccines and staying vigilant.”

A third wave of the pandemic is proving to the most difficult yet, especially in British Columbia, Quebec and Ontario.

“The Greater Toronto Area is on fire with COVID-19, as are the hospitals that serve them, and unless something changes now, this situation will get so far out of control that I don’t want to even consider what we may have to do if things don’t change,” says Dr. Michael Wagner, medical director of critical care at Toronto’s Michael Garron Hospital.

Dr. Russell says what's happening in other parts of Canada should serve as a warning in New Brunswick.

"If you’re not paying attention to what’s happening in other provinces right now, you might not quite understand the severity of the situation,” says Russell. “Not to mention that several provinces are dealing with the U.K. variant, but B.C. is now dealing with the Brazil variant, which is actually worse than the U.K. variant.”