HALIFAX -- New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs says the province is now in a state of emergency, effective immediately.

Higgs made the announcement during a news conference Thursday afternoon.

Officials also confirmed there are no new cases of COVID-19 in the province.

The state of emergency means many closures and restrictions are now required to be followed by law.

Higgs said too many people were not abiding by the restrictions and recommendations from New Brunswick’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Jennifer Russell, forcing the province to take extreme measures.

Mandatory closures

"Before, this was a recommendation. Today it's a requirement," said Higgs.

"Public schools, universities, and colleges will remain closed until further notice."

Higgs said all non-essential retail businesses must cease all operations immediately, but may continue with online or delivery sales.

"All food and beverage service businesses will only offer takeout and delivery services," said Higgs. "All bars, and other establishments operating under the Liquor Control Act will close immediately."

Other businesses that must cease operations immediately include hair salons, barber shops, spas, and nail salons.

"All cinemas, theatres, gyms, tennis courts, dance studios, and other recreational and public entertainment centres must stop admitting members of the public immediately," said Higgs.

Higgs added any premises that hold larger gatherings must cap gatherings to no more than 10 people.

Stores and businesses exempt from the mandatory closures include grocery stores, pharmacies, stores operated by NB Liquor and Cannabis NB, automotive repair businesses, post offices, gas stations, and hardware stores.

Protection for New Brunswick tenants

Higgs also announced protection for tenants who have lost income and are struggling to pay rent.

"Part of the emergency declaration will suspend the authority of landlords to evict tenants for non-payment of rent through May 31," he said. 

Safety recommendations still stand

Anyone who has been outside the country must self-isolate and anyone who has been advised by a physician to self-isolate must now, by law, comply with these directions, according to Higgs.

"These are unprecedented actions, but these are necessary as we are in an unprecedented time," said Higgs.

Higgs says he feels strongly that the decision to declare a state of emergency is the best way to protect all New Brunswickers and to avoid the dire situations that are currently happening around the world.

The province is still reiterating its main recommendation that people should not be leaving their homes other than for essential reasons, such as getting groceries, or picking up medications.

New Brunswickers are also being reminded of the importance of washing their hands, staying two metres or six feet away from others when in public, and coughing and sneezing into their elbow.

New Brunswick has a total of 11 cases of COVID-19. According to Russell, 410 tests completed in the province’s laboratory have come back negative.