N.B. reports 30 new COVID-19 cases Thursday; Edmundston region going into 'circuit-breaker' lockdown
HALIFAX -- With 24 of New Brunswick's 30 new cases of COVID-19 in the Edmundston region, the province is putting the city and some surrounding areas into a "circuit-breaker" lockdown for the next four days.
"The measures that we are taking today are strict, but they are absolutely necessary," Dr. Jennifer Russell, the province's chief medical officer of health, said during a news conference in Fredericton. "Depending on our findings, this measure could be extended for a longer period of time and it may need to be expanded to cover the rest of Zone 4."
The city of Edmundston and the upper Madawaska region, which border Quebec and Maine, will move to the province's "red" pandemic-alert level at 6 p.m. on Thursday.
Red-level restrictions include a travel ban in and out of the affected area and a limit on gatherings to members of a household. Health officials say the rest of the province remains at the lower "yellow" level.
Russell said the reason for the tough measures is because of the B.1.1.7 variant, first discovered in the U.K.
"Just when it seemed like things were getting better, the game has changed again," Russell said. "This variant is more infectious and more easily transmitted."
Russell said 62 per cent of the cases in zone 4 are the B.1.1.7 variant of COVID-19. Public health announced mass testing for asymptomatic people to help determine how widespread the outbreak is. That is going on Thursday and Friday.
"I encourage everyone who has no symptoms and is not self-isolating to get tested at one of the mass testing clinics being held today and tomorrow," said Health Minister Dorothy Shephard. "No appointment is necessary, and the more people who get tested, the better we will be able to determine what steps are needed to get the situation under control."
Testing will be held today and Friday, March 26, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Saint-Basile arena, at 275 Principale St.
The 30 new cases raise the province's total of active cases to 89.
There are three people in hospital, and 635 people are self-isolating.
Five of the other new cases are in the Saint John region and are all related to travel outside New Brunswick. The sixth new case is in the Bathurst region and is under investigation.
Russell said she understands that people are getting tired of restrictions, but it's time for a "renewed effort" and "a new commitment to really seeing this through," she said.
"I am appealing directly to the people of the Edmundston area to stay within their household bubble, wear a mask, maintain two metres of physical distance in public and follow all other public health measures," Russell said.
She also had a pointed warning for young people -- as the variant affects younger people more than the original version of COVID-19.
She also encouraged people to get a vaccine as soon as possible, regardless of which one is offered to them.
"As Dr. Tam pointed out, it's a race between 'team vaccine' and 'team variant,'" Russell said.
The province of Nova Scotia issued an advisory later Thursday, asking all residents to avoid non-essential travel to northwestern New Brunswick while the lockdown is in effect.
NEW GROUP ELIGIBLE FOR VACCINATION
Starting Thursday, people aged 40 and older who have three or more chronic conditions may begin booking appointmentsto get a COVID-19 vaccine.
"Those eligible are asked to review the list of chronic conditions included online prior to making an appointment and to print a copy of the declaration form," New Brunswick Public Health wrote in a news release. "Those who meet the requirements may book an appointment online or call 1-833-437-1424."
CONFIRMED CASE AT SAINT-BASILE SCHOOL
Public health has confirmed a positive case of COVID-19 at École Régionale Saint-Basile.
"Students, staff and families have been asked to self-isolate until Saturday, March 27, as contact tracing is carried out," public health stated in a news release.
The school and child-care facility located within the school, Halte Scolaire St-Basile,are closed Thursday and Friday.
Public Health has identified a potential public exposure to the virus at the following location in Edmundston:
- Dollarama, 15 Mowin St., on March 21 and 22.
VACCINATION CLINICS FOR STAFF AT HIGH SCHOOLS
New Brunswick's province-wide campaign to vaccinate staff at high schools continues on Friday.
Vaccination clinics in the Tracadie and Moncton areas will be available for staff from the following schools:
- Bernice MacNaughton High School in Moncton
- Caledonia Regional High School in Hillsborough
- J.M.A. Armstrong/Salisbury Middle School in Salisbury
- Petitcodiac Regional School
- Riverview High School
- Tantramar Regional High School in Sackville
- École L'Odyssée in Moncton
- École Mathieu-Martin in Dieppe
- Moncton High School
- Harrison Trimble High School in Moncton
- Centre scolaire communautaire La fontaine in Neguac
- École Marie-Esther in Shippagan
- Polyvalente W.-Arthur-Losier in Tracadie
- Polyvalente Louis-Mailloux in Caraquet
Additional clinics will be held on Monday, March 29, for high school staff in the Shediac, Bathurst and Campbellton regions.
"In the coming weeks, additional vaccination clinics will be held for staff in elementary and middle schools, including bus drivers, and for early childhood service providers and child-care staff as part of the large employer section of the vaccine rollout plan," public health wrote in a news release on Thursday.
With files from The Canadian Press.