HALIFAX -- New Brunswickers might never have been this excited to finally be able to go to the dentist.

Two weeks after taking the first step, New Brunswick is making a second larger step to try to get back to some semblance of normal. Elective surgeries and other non-emergency health services are among the major changes announced Friday.

"Today, we announce a further loosening of restrictions," said Premier Blaine Higgs at a news conference in Fredericton to announce what businesses can open under its renewed and revised state of emergency.

Things that will be allowed to resume, or reopen, include:

  • Elective surgeries and other non-emergency health services, including dental, physiotherapy, optometry and massage therapy.
  • Outdoor public gatherings, with physical distancing, of 10 or fewer people.
  • Indoor public gatherings, with physical distancing, of 10 or fewer people for in-person religious services, weddings and funerals.
  • All in-person programs at post-secondary institutions, subject to the COVID-19 directives from public health. Virtual education options should be continued wherever possible.
  • Cultural venues such as museums, galleries and libraries.
  • Offices not deemed essential during the initial phase.
  • Retail establishments, including malls.
  • Restaurants.
  • Campgrounds and outdoor recreational activities, such as zoos and outfitters.
  • Early learning and child-care centres regulated by the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development will be permitted to reopen as of May 19.
  • Non-regulated child care providers may open as of today but must adhere to Public Health guidelines, including having an operational plan.
  • Day camps, if the organization can adhere to public health measures.
  • ATV trails across the province

In all cases, the physical distancing rules will still apply and any business that reopens will be required to show public health officials what steps they are taking to comply with them. Anyone looking to develop such a plan, can refer to this guide provided by New Brunswick public health.

Masks are now required where physical distancing cannot be accomplished (pharmacies, grocery stores), except for children under the age of two, or for those with respiratory illness who cannot wear a mask.

Premier Higgs admits this will all be difficult to enforce, but he is hoping people will step up and be mindful of one another's health and safety.

"We can move forward in our recovery plan because New Brunswickers answered the call by following the directives of Public Health and helping to contain the spread of the virus," said Higgs. "This would not have been possible without the collaboration of the all-party cabinet committee and the leadership of Dr. Russell and her team. Extraordinary times can bring out the best in people and that is what has happened in our province."

Dr. Jennifer Russell, the province's chief medical officer of health, says she is worried about this reopening, but she's also worried about what could happen to New Brunswickers' health if the province didn't allow some businesses to reopen.

"We can't hide from this disease. We have to learn to live with it," Dr. Russell said. "Maintaining our strong performance requires New Brunswickers to continue what they have been doing. Please continue to limit close contact to those within your two-household bubble. Let us keep working together to build on the success we have achieved."

Russell says she'll be closely monitoring how this goes. If there is a spike in COVID-19 cases, there will be a swift reintroduction of the restrictions.

Business owners who have questions can contact Opportunities NB Business Navigators by emailing nav@navnb.ca or by calling 1-833-799-7966.

In other news, the province reported no new cases of COVID-19 on Friday. So far, there have been 17,029 tests conducted in New Brunswick and there have been 120 confirmed cases. There are two active cases and 118 people have recovered from the virus. Neither of the patients who have COVID-19 now are in hospital.