New Brunswick enters green phase with no pandemic restrictions
SAINT JOHN, N.B. -- At midnight Friday, New Brunswick will lift all of its pandemic-related restrictions despite not reaching its vaccination target.
It's a move that some experts have criticized as being too sudden and not based in science.
As of Friday, the province is reporting that 66.7 per cent of the eligible population is now fully vaccinated. The province's original plan for getting to "green" was to hit the 75 per cent mark.
When the clock strikes 11:59 p.m. Friday night, the Plexiglas panels at the Cask and Kettle pub in uptown Saint John are coming down -- part of the changes taking place as New Brunswick goes "green."
"Masks will be optional for our staff and for our customers," said Cask & Kettle owner Shawn Verner. "They'll be on hand if a customer requests a server to wear a mask, we'll put it back on, but for the most part we'll be unmasked here."
At the Saint John City Market, starting Saturday morning, masks will no longer be required, the directional arrows on the ground will be removed, and the main eating area will be back to its pre-pandemic capacity.
"It's going to be weird at first," said Andrew MacDonald, the manager at the Saint John City Market. "People are used to this, but it's going to be a lot more open kind of route of traffic, and people can kind of come and go as they please. All the doors will be open, it's kind of crazy, it's been a while it's been like this."
When New Brunswick lifts its mandatory order, it means an end to all pandemic-related restrictions and mixed feelings for businesses.
"There's a sense of relief because it's been a really challenging 17 months and I think a lot of them are looking forward to perhaps recapturing some of that revenue that they've lost during that period," said John Wishart of the Greater Moncton Chamber of Commerce.
Wishart says there's also a sense of uncertainty of not knowing how to operate in this "new world" -- a new world and a new path that hasn't been without its share of criticism.
New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs stands behind the decision to give the "green light" to reopening.
"Public Health reviewed all the science on this and what's going on around us and said 'we're comfortable to move,'" Higgs said.