'The end is indeed in sight': N.B. releases details on COVID-19 reopening plan
HALIFAX -- New Brunswick announced details surrounding their COVID-19 reopening plan on Thursday, which could see the Atlantic Bubble reinstated by Canada Day.
"I know this news come as a huge relief for many, many New Brunswickers," said Premier Blaine Higgs. "Many of us have been separated from our loved ones in other parts of the country for more than 14 long months."
Dr. Jennifer Russell, New Brunswick's chief medical officer of health, says the plan involves three stages of slowly loosening COVID-19 restrictions, with target dates based on vaccination rates and the number of hospitalizations related to the novel coronavirus.
"Releasing this plan does not put us at the finish line of our pandemic journey," said Russell. "COVID-19 is always amongst us and will be for a certain period of time, even after the green phase, but it is a message of hope."
Dorothy Shephard, New Brunswick's minister of health, says thanks to hard work from New Brunswickers, the province is now able to announce what green will look like in the province.
"Before I start, I want to remind everyone that these dates are goals and they are subject to change based on our vaccination rates and the number of hospitalizations," said Shephard.
“As we move forward on the path to the Green level, we will continue to prioritize the health and safety of New Brunswickers,” said Higgs. “If we see a rise in cases and hospitalizations, or if we do not reach our vaccination goals, we will have to delay our target dates.”
Shephard said the province's first phase would come into effect June 7; as long as at least 75 per cent of New Brunswickers 12 and older have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, the number of COVID-19 related hospitalizations remain low, and all health levels remain at the Yellow Alert level.
Changes that could come into effect in phase 1 include:
- No isolation or testing will be required for those travelling to New Brunswick from Atlantic Canada and the Avignon and Témiscouata regions of Quebec, with the exception of Nova Scotia. Travel registration will still be required.
- Compassionate travel, which is travel related to end-of-life, funerals, and providing or receiving care including child care not otherwise available, will be permitted to individuals outside of Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Avignon and Témiscouata, with isolation and testing required on days five to seven and released with a negative test.
- Cross border commuters and truckers will no longer be subject to testing and isolating requirements.
- Other workers, including rotational workers, travelling outside of Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Avignon and Témiscouata will be required to isolate and take a COVID-19 test between days five and seven before they can discontinue isolation, unless they have an existing work-isolation plan.
- Contact with all family and friends will be permitted and restrictions will be loosened for indoor and outdoor gatherings.
- Organized sporting activities will be permitted, but restricted to teams based in Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Avignon and Témiscouata.
- Faith gatherings can take place with a maximum 50 per cent venue capacity and with the choir at least four metres from the congregation.
New Brunswick's second reopening phase is expected to come into effect on July 1; as long as 75 per cent of New Brunswickers 12 and older have received their first dose of a vaccine, 20 per cent of New Brunswickers 65 and older have received their second dose, hospitalizations remain low and all health zones remain at the Yellow Alert level.
In phase 2, changes made include:
- Travel registration will no longer be required for those in the Atlantic provinces, including Nova Scotia, or in Avignon and Témiscouata.
- Canadian travellers, as well as travellers from Maine, who have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, will be permitted into the province without needing to isolate.
- Canadian travellers, as well as travellers from Maine, who have not been vaccinated will be permitted to enter the province but will be subject to testing and isolation requirements.
- Businesses including restaurants, gyms and salons will be permitted to operate at regular capacity as long as they maintain a contact list of clients.
- Games and sporting competitions with teams based outside of Atlantic Canada will be permitted, subject to travel requirements.
- Beginning July 1, additional health and safety guidelines developed to respond to the pandemic will be relaxed for early learning and child-care facilities, with a full return to normal operations anticipated by Aug. 1. The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development will contact operators in the coming weeks to provide more information and to organize question and answer sessions.
Travel restrictions for the following individuals will continue in phase 2:
- Canadian travellers, as well as travellers from Maine, who have not been vaccinated, will be permitted to enter the province but will be required to isolate with testing on day five to seven, and released with a negative test.
- International travellers with no vaccine, or only one dose, will be required to isolate for 14 days, with a test on day 10 and a negative result. International travellers with two doses will not be required to isolate.
The third phase New Brunswick hopes to reach is Aug. 2. On this date, if at least 75 per cent of New Brunswickers aged 12 and older have received their second dose of COVID-19 vaccine, the province will be considered at their Green Alert level, and the mandatory order will be removed, with all restrictions lifted.
“Green is coming and it is closer than we imagined,” said Shephard. “We are in this position thanks to the hard work being done across our province to roll out vaccines quickly and efficiently.”
"We are on the cusp of a very exciting moment," said Higgs. "Just think of where we were six or eight months ago and wondering when all of this could end. The end is indeed in sight, but we must continue to be vigilant."
NINE NEW CASES CONFIRMED
Public health confirmed Thursday afternoon that there are nine new cases of COVID-19 among New Brunswickers.
There are three cases in Zone 1 (the Moncton region), two of which are contacts of previous cases and the other is travel-related.
There are five new cases in Zone 3 (the Fredericton region) four of which are close contacts of previous cases. The other is a travel-related case and that person is isolating outside New Brunswick.
There is also one new case in Zone 6 (the Bathurst region), which is under investigation.
There are now 137 active cases, with 11 of those involving people who are infected elsewhere.
There are eight people in hospital, including three in intensive care. Two of the people are hospital in another province.