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Maritimes work to stop COVID-19 spread as cases grow
HALIFAX -- On Saturday and Sunday, the Maritimes dealt with the unfortunate but expected realization that COVID-19 had entered the region. With 11 cases, both confirmed and presumptive, all provinces in Atlantic Canada have been touched by the pandemic's international reach. However, despite the severity and inconveniences the outbreak has presented, all regions and businesses are taking proactive measures to protect residents and slow the spread.
Nova Scotia last to be hit
On Sunday in Nova Scotia, the province's chief medical officer of health, Dr. Robert Strang, announced three presumptive cases of COVID-19 were reported in Nova Scotia – the last province to report cases of COVID-19. However, while the tests were positive, they will be sent to a national lab for official confirmation.
Like many cases, the three presumptive cases involve travel outside of Canada.
"We have a 61-year-old woman, who lives in Kings County, who travelled to Australia; a 50-year-old male who lives in HRM, who was travelling to the USA; and a male in their 30s, travelling extensively throughout Europe," said Strang during a press conference.
Also present at the conference was Premier Stephen McNeil, who said the province is working under the guidelines of the Health Protection Act.
McNeil also added he is taking strict measures by closing schools and daycare centres for two weeks following March break – and that's not all. March break camps have been cancelled; long-term care facilities are closed to the public; casinos in Sydney and Halifax are closing at midnight on Sunday, and bar owners aren't allowed to operate VLTs.
"Restaurants and bars are asked to practice social distancing of two metres or six feet," said McNeil, addressing local food establishments. "If that means moving tables and seating, do so."
Premier McNeil says the province is also placing its own health inspectors at Halifax Stanfield International Airport to tell domestic and international travellers how to proceed if they are feeling sick. People returning to Nova Scotia from far away destinations are being told to stay home for 14 days and self-isolate, as Strang says travel is directly linked to the presumptive cases of COVID-19 in Nova Scotia.
In addition to international and domestic travel, Strang notes travel within the province is also discouraged.
"Really ask yourself, 'is this something I need to do?' says Strang.
Case number climbs in New Brunswick
On Sunday, four new presumptive cases of COVID-19 were announced in New Brunswick – all of them connected to the first travel-related case, bringing the province's total to six.
"I know this can be very disconcerting and very stressful to hear, but I'm not surprised by this, and I expect there will be more travel-related cases that result in a cluster of very close contacts or household members," said New Brunswick's chief medical officer of health, Dr. Jennifer Russell, at a press conference.
The four new presumptive cases are all in zone three, or the central part of the province, and include a man and woman between the ages of 50 and 60, as well as two men between 20 and 30 years old. The new cases bring the province's total to five presumptive and one confirmed following over 200 tests for COVID-19 in the region.
"We need to walk a line between preparing for this, and overreacting," said New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs.
To stop the spread, schools will be closed in the province for two weeks beginning Monday tomorrow. New visitor restrictions are also in place for all Horizon Health hospitals and facilities, with a limit of two family members. In addition to many closures, jury trials have been postponed.
While the precautions might be stressful for residents, Higgs cautioned against panic.
"We have been talking with the major grocers and the supply chains, and they say we are not in any risk of running out of our supply chain," said Higgs. "We are running out of specific items, and that could be a 24-36 hour delay. The reason for that? It's panic-buying."
As New Brunswick continues to navigates the outbreak, regional health authorities are adding community assessment centres throughout the province. However, access to those testing sites is by appointment only.
Meanwhile, officials from all provinces are urging residents to only call 811 if they are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19.