FREDERICTON -- New Brunswick has moved to the next phase of its COVID-19 recovery plan, allowing for the reopening of more business and activities.

The so-called "yellow phase" of the province’s recovery plan will be rolled out in stages over the next few weeks.

As of Friday, the two-household “bubble” can be extended to close friends and family, but the provincial government is still asking residents to keep gatherings small.

"You can now spend time with the close friends and family members you usually see on a regular basis,” said New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs on Friday.

“We are recommending that gatherings be limited to 10 people or fewer. So, it's not like inviting your ball team over or having a house party, but is an important next step to getting together and the new norm under COVID-19.”

Also effective Friday, non-regulated health professionals, including acupuncturists and naturopaths, can reopen.

Dr. Chris Goodyear of the medical society says New Brunswick successfully flattened the curve and that healthcare services do need to begin again.

"Hopefully, now that we're much better prepared and knowledgeable about the virus, we won't have to slip into a phase where we're absolutely on complete lockdown like we've been for the last two months and we can keep some aspects of healthcare going, even if we do get a spike in cases going forward," he said.

Businesses that offer personal services, including barber shops, hair salons, spas, and tattoo shops, can also reopen.

"These businesses need to respect physical distancing measures, except when clients are receiving services," Higgs said Friday.

Friday, May 29

The next stage will roll out on Friday, May 29, when outdoor public gatherings of 50 people or fewer will be permitted, with physical distancing.

Swimming pools, saunas, waterparks, gyms, yoga and dance studios, rinks and indoor recreational facilities, as well as pool halls and bowling alleys can reopen.

Religious services, including wedding and funerals, of 50 people or fewer may take place indoors or outdoors, with physical distancing.

The province will allow for more elective surgeries and other non-emergency health-care services.

Low-contact sports activities will also be able to begin operating on May 29, provided they have an operational plan, including physical distancing when possible. Youth leagues must also limit the number of spectators to one adult per child for youth leagues.

New Brunswick will also allow temporary foreign workers to return to the province as of May 29, in an effort to fill jobs on farms and in fish-processing facilities.

They must isolate for 14 days before beginning work.

"We are still prioritizing the safety of New Brunswickers, but as we restart our economy, we also need to find ways to meet the needs of the agriculture and seafood industries," said Higgs. "Our plan was always to allow temporary foreign workers to enter the province once it was safe to do so."

Beginning on Friday, June 19, overnight camps can open, provided they establish public health measures and provide an operational plan, including a process to screen children, parents and staff.

"Every New Brunswicker is being empowered with a certain amount of responsibility to protect their fellow citizens right now, and we encourage them to take that responsibility very, very seriously," said Dr. Jennifer Russell, New Brunswick’s medical officer of health.

"It will impact vulnerable populations, it will impact institutions. We are going to live with this for a long time, and we all have to become very comfortable and aware that the risks will be with us until we get a vaccine."

The opening of other sectors, such as casinos, amusement centres, bingo halls, arcades, cinemas, bars without seating, large live performance venues and large public gatherings, will be determined at a later date.

No new cases

New Brunswick reported no new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, a day after the province reported its first new case since May 6.

The new case, which is under investigation, is a person under the age of 19 in Zone 5, which is the Campbellton region near the border with Quebec.

A daycare in Zone 5 has been closed until further notice and family and staff have been notified as part of the contact-tracing process.

“We have watched at every stage to make sure the disease did not reappear but it was known to us that we would eventually see more cases because we have cases all around us on our borders with Nova Scotia, Maine and Quebec,” said Dr. Russell.

It is the 121st confirmed case in the province since the pandemic began. The other 120 people have all recovered.

So far, the province has done 21,752 tests.

“This doesn’t mean the pandemic is over, and it doesn’t mean that we want to see large numbers of people gathering and not social distancing," said Russell.

"I know this can happen and has been happening, and I want to discourage that and encourage people to take all the precautions they need to protect themselves and their loved ones and every other New Brunswicker."

Seasonal residents travelling through N.B.

Premier Higgs also addressed his concerns with Prince Edward Island’s recent announcement that they will allow seasonal residents to travel to the island beginning June 1.

“We should be able to ensure that when they come to our borders, they have a reason why they are coming,” said Higgs. “I understand that P.E.I. will have a strong application process, so that residents are well understood, and I would assume they would share that with us so we could share that with our officials at the border.”

In an interview with CTV Atlantic anchor Steve Murphy on Wednesday, Higgs said that decision might affect the potential of a ‘tourism bubble’ between P.E.I. and New Brunswick.

“We’ll continue to work with P.E.I. and public health officials to determine the next phase of our alignment going forward. We have from the beginning allowed other people to come through New Brunswick to get to the other provinces and that will continue,” Higgs said on Friday.