HALIFAX -- New Brunswick has eight new cases of COVID-19 and tightened border restrictions to stop the spread of the infectious disease in the province.

Dr. Jennifer Russell, the province's chief public officer of health, announced the cases at a news conference on Wednesday afternoon.

Russell said seven of the eight cases are travel-related and the other is a close contact of someone who has travelled.

The age ranges of the new eight cases are between 10 and 70. Of the new cases:

  • three are in Zone 1: ages 50 to 60, 30 to 40, and 60 to 70;
  • three are in Zone 2: ages 50 to 60, 10 to 20, and 20 to 30;
  • one case in Zone 3, aged 30 to 40; and,
  • one case in Zone 4, aged 30 to 40.

The case in Zone 4, which includes Edmundston, is the first case in that zone.

That brings the total number of cases in the province to 26 and has prompted tough new measures by the province.

"We are in this for the long haul," Russell said. "Projections by leading authorities suggest that we may be dealing with the effects of this virus for the next 18 to 24 months while we wait for a vaccine or other treatment."

New Brunwick's chief public health officer had some words of encouragement for those who feel powerless or alone.

"You have the power to stay home, you have the power to maintain physical distancing (and) you have the power to practise good hygiene," Russell said. "I appeal to all New Brunswickers what happens next depends on you."

Russell said the province has so far tested 1,700 people and 1.7 per cent have been confirmed cases. All of the testing in New Brunswick is done at the microbiology lab at the Dr. Georges-L.-Dumont University Hospital Centre in Moncton.

Russell said the lab has enough capacity to meet current needs.

"We have the capacity to conduct 600 tests per day," Russell said. "Soon, we will be able to process 1,000 tests every day."

New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs said that while many are adhering to the guidelines for self-isolation, not everyone is.

"As of 3 p.m. (Wednesday), we are implementing restrictions for all travellers entering New Brunswick who must self-isolate for 14 days and avoid all contact with others," Higgs said.

The government says all unnecessary travel into New Brunswick is prohibited. Higgs says police and public health officers will be enforcing the new rules and can turn visitors away.

"We must do all we can to prevent and reduce the spread of COVID-19 in New Brunswick," Higgs said. "We are implementing screening at interprovincial borders. Regardless of where you are, we urge you to avoid any non-essential travel."

Travellers entering New Brunswick from Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, or Quebec will be stopped at the border and required to produce identification. They will be asked to provide contact informations and their intended destination. This also applies to anyone travelling though New Brunswick to another province.

The New Brunswick government has partnereed with the Canadian Red Cross to provide support to residents or visitors required to self-isolate. To access this support, you can call 1-800-863-6582.

This is a developing story. The story will be updated as information becomes available.