EDMUNDSTON, N.B. -- New Brunswick reported nine new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, including five more in an area in the northwest of the province now mostly under lockdown following a recent outbreak of the virus.

The new figures followed an earlier update on the status of the Edmundston Regional Hospital, which has been bearing the brunt of the recent surge in cases.

The Vitalite Health Network issued a news release saying the hospital had 13 patients who were sick with the virus, with seven in intensive care and five on respirators.

Officials said the hospital has nine intensive care beds and to date had transferred two patients to a health-care facility in Fredericton.

The province's chief medical officer of health, Dr. Jennifer Russell, later urged residents to remain vigilant.

"Given the current risk posed by variants of concern, it is even more important now that everyone follow public health guidelines, especially those living in areas which are in the red or lockdown level," Russell said in a news release.

The Edmundston and the Upper Madawaska region went under full lockdown as of midnight Sunday after 15 of 19 new COVID-19 cases announced in the province the day before were identified in the area.

Russell also announced one new COVID-19 related death in the region on Saturday -- the province's 33rd since the onset of the pandemic -- and said that moving forward all cases in the province would be presumed to be caused by virus variants of concern.

The variant found thus far has been the one first identified in the United Kingdom, known as B.1.1.7.

The outbreak prompted Elections New Brunswick to announce that it was suspending municipal elections in the area set for May 10 until the lockdown ends.

Legislation was recently passed to allow the municipal electoral officer to pause nominations and voting in a particular zone.

Municipalities where elections are suspended include Edmundston, Upper-Madawaska, Lac Baker, Riviere-Verte, Sainte-Anne-de-Madawaska and Saint Leonard.

"Electors in the impacted areas will not be sent their voter information cards until such time as we are advised the lockdown has been lifted and that we are able to ensure we can rebook polling locations and provide the necessary training to poll workers," Chief Electoral Officer Kim Poffenroth said in a news release Sunday.

The suspension of voting also means the reporting of results for the rest of the province will be delayed until all electors have had the opportunity to cast a ballot. Poffenroth said the move was necessary because an elector from one part of the province can cast their ballot at another returning office if they are away from the area where they normally vote.

Meanwhile, health officials said four of the five new cases identified in the Edmundston region on Sunday were contacts of previously confirmed cases, while the other one was under investigation.

The remaining cases in the province included two in the Saint John area, and one each in the Moncton and Fredericton regions.

New Brunswick now has a total of 148 known active infections, with 20 patients hospitalized and 13 in intensive care units.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 11, 2021.